Archive for July, 2014

First step: Engagement. Second step: Change the world.

Micaela RazoEarlier this month, a study from the University of Washington examined ways that immigrant parents could become engaged in their child’s school when traditional methods are barriers to their involvement.

That study resonated with League of Education Voters (LEV) Community Organizer Micaela Razo, who has done much of the work mentioned in the study—both as a parent and as an organizer—by engaging parents in migrant families in eastern Washington.

We asked Micaela to tell us about her experience engaging parents in their child’s school, and she told the story of creating the first Spanish-speaking PTA in Washington state, formed two-and-a-half years ago in Grandview, and how she got there.

I became an advocate for my child when he was very young. We were living in one of the wealthiest school districts in the area and the PTA lived up to the stereotypes you hear about—that it’s just bake sales and fundraising.

But I was finding that I had to navigate the maze of school bureaucracy and learn to advocate for my child all on my own, so I decided to infiltrate the bake sales. I was the first parent of color to join the PTA. (more…)

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Sixty-four percent.

By Emma Margraf

Sixty-four percent of foster kids in Washington state do not graduate from high school.It was the day that Jane was brought into the principal’s office to be scared by a police officer for threatening other kids that sent me over the edge. She was in the eighth grade, being bullied, and in a downward spiral of discipline without direction or objective. I walked into the principal’s office and told him if he ever did anything like that again without calling me first I was going to sue everyone in the district. “There is a long line of people who’ve let this kid down,” I said, “and you are one of them.”

As I walked out of the school, I realized I had to be honest with myself—the status quo was never going to work. Cut to five years later and Jane and I have pretty much worked it out, with the help of friends. Quite a bit has happened that you can read about here and here. Jane’s nearing the end of her high school career and the girl who no one wanted to let out of the resource room has tested into college-level English, gotten her driver’s license, and learned to make friends and plan for her future.

According to OSPI, sixty-four percent of foster kids in Washington state do not graduate from high school.

Sixty-four percent.

They graduate at a lower rate than any other category of students—homeless kids, kids who speak limited English, children of immigrants—they all graduate at a higher rate. It’s easy to see how Jane could have been one of those statistics—some kids and parents just don’t have the fight in them to succeed. (more…)

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Activist of the Month: Ashley Guerra

At the League of Education Voters (LEV), we recognize all of the hard work that you do toward improving public education across Washington state. We are pleased to announce our Activist of the Month for July: Ashley Guerra. Read more about her experience leveraging technology to improve parental involvement in education.

The Guerra family at the June 6 State Board of Education forum. From left: From left to right, Ashley, her younger brother Julito, her mom Yelenys, and her dad Julio.

The Guerra family at the June 6 State Board of Education forum. From left: From left to right, Ashley, her younger brother Julito, her mom Yelenys, and her dad Julio.

Ashley Guerra just finished her first year of high school, so it might surprise you to hear that we chose her as our Activist of the Month for July. But it won’t surprise you for very long.

Ashley recently testified at the State Board of Education’s forum on the updated high school diploma for Washington. Her focus was parent engagement.

Her goal to increase parent engagement began as a school project at Kent-Meridian High School, which has the lowest graduation rate in Kent. Ashley and her peers decided to try to find a way to improve Kent-Meridian’s graduation rate.

After researching strategies that have been shown to improve the graduation rate, Ashley and her project group members decided to focus on parent engagement. (more…)

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Making the sky the limit

Making the sky the limit. (View from Spokane.)Rogers High School in northeast Spokane had a graduation rate of 50 percent in 2010. This year, the graduate rate was 85 percent, an increase of 35 percent in four years.

What changed between 2010 and 2014? Not the student body. Seventy-five percent of students at the high school are eligible for free and reduced lunch (FRL). What DID change is how students prepare for high school and life after high school.

Rogers High School is in its sixth year of a Navigation 101 grant from College Spark Washington, and they have also implemented the AVID program in their school. Both Navigation 101 and AVID are programs designed to prepare students for college or career.

One aspect of both of those programs is the High School and Beyond Plan, used to help students chart a path through high school to achieve their post-high school career goals. The High School and Beyond Plan is also one part of the newly updated high school diploma for Washington, which was passed during the 2014 legislative session. The League of Education Voters is working with communities across the state to ensure that the implementation of the new diploma is as effective as possible.

So how did Rogers High School implement the High School and Beyond Plan successfully? (more…)

Posted in: Closing the Gaps

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On the proposed rules for E2SSB 6552

League of Education Voters CEO Chris Korsmo sent the following letter to all Washington state legislators earlier today regarding the proposed rules for E2SSB 6552.

On behalf of the League of Education Voters, I applaud the Legislature for the passage of E2SSB 6552 and for the explicit recognition that “preparing students to be successful… requires increased rigor and achievement, including attaining a meaningful high school diploma with the opportunity to earn twenty-four credits.” I strongly agree and thank you for your leadership.

With the passage of 6552, we have a law that can increase rigor, empower local control and ensure consistency at the state level for high school graduation requirements.

At the League of Education Voters, we believe that every student in Washington state should have access to an excellent public education that provides the opportunity for success. E2SSB 6552 is a step in that direction. But only if implemented well.

Next week, the State Board of Education will vote on proposed rules guiding the implementation of this new law.

We have a number of concerns related to the implementation of the law and the proposed rules that are addressed in detail in the attached document.

Of particular concern to the League of Education Voters is the provision allowing students to waive credits. We have an economic imperative as a state to ensure that students are ready for the next step after high school, whether that is a career or post-secondary education. However, allowing any of the 24 credits to be waived results in less rigor, not more. In addition, high school graduation requirements should be consistent across the state. The proposed rules include significant flexibility for both school districts and for students, which incorporates the extensive discussions leading up to the passage of 6552. The State Board of Education has done exactly what the Legislature authorized them to do and any further changes to E2SSB 6552 should be made through additional legislation.

Thank you again for your work to ensure that each Washington student graduates from high school with a college and career ready diploma and the opportunity for success. Please review the attached addendum for more information about our specific concerns on the updated high school diploma. I welcome hearing from you on this important issue and working together during the 2015 legislative session.


Chris Korsmo

Att: On the proposed rules for E2SSB 6552

Posted in: Press Releases & Statements

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“Sending my child to school is the only way I can ensure he doesn’t have to work as hard as I do; it is the only way out for my family. But I cannot speak English, so how am I going to make sure that he succeeds in school?”

Maria Zanotti of Inspire Development Centers introduces new techniques to make at-home learning fun for both parents and children.

Maria Zanotti of Inspire Development Centers introduces new techniques to make at-home learning fun for both parents and children.

This is one of the many stories that can be heard in Yakima Valley, Washington. Yakima, located in eastern Washington and known for its lively agricultural communities and large production of hops, is also home to a large and vibrant Latino community that makes up approximately 40 percent of the population.

While public education is confusing and complicated for a lot of people, navigating the system turns out to be particularly challenging for Yakima’s Latino community, as many parents only speak Spanish and work long hours in the fields trying to provide for their families.

Thus, it came as no surprise that when registration opened at 8:00 a.m. on Saturday, June 21, crowds of eager parents and family members queued up at the entrance of Sunnyside High School to participate in our summit and activist training, Parents Partnering in Education. The League of Education Voters partnered with Inspire Development Centers and the Sunnyside School District to offer the summit.

League of Education Voters' Community Organizer Micaela Razo answers questions after her crash course in Advocacy 101.

League of Education Voters’ Micaela Razo answers questions after her crash course in Advocacy 101.

Parents Partnering in Education was an all-day event that covered topics ranging from the basics of advocacy to how to best support children with special needs. By the end of the day, parents had the opportunity to attend 17 different workshops and presentations.

The children who accompanied their parents were also well taken care of. Childcare was provided in classrooms around the school in the form of an exciting day filled with arts and crafts and other fun activities, and complete with instructional sessions from trained teaching staff.

About halfway through the day’s activities, participants were invited to a special presentation by guest speaker Bernardo Ruiz, Seattle Public Schools’ School Family Partnerships and Race and Equity Director, and the League of Education Voters’ Community Organizer, Micaela Razo. The presentation was a combined effort to empower parents to take “ACCION!”

Guest speaker Bernardo Ruiz delivers his charge for parents and family members to take “ACCION!”

Guest speaker Bernardo Ruiz from Seattle Public Schools delivers his charge for parents and family members to take “ACCION!”

Bernardo told the story of his struggles as a child to achieve academic stability. He attributes his success to the hard work and determination of his mother—who herself had little education—to see him succeed. This was not an easy task but during this time Bernardo says he developed a habit for trading schools and people—from those who told him that he could not to those who told him he could.

Bernardo’s message resonated throughout the day. Fighting for equitable access to a good education will not be easy and parents, families, and students will face obstacles. However, by continuing to take action and by surrounding yourself with people who believe in you and who are fighting for the same thing, you can be heard and instigate change.

And starting on June 21, 200+ families found their voice and are ready to be heard.

Raymond Fenton is the League of Education Voters’ Field Organizing Intern this summer. He is studying rhetoric and media studies and theater at Lewis & Clark College in Portland, Oregon. He has a passion for social justice and is a vibrant race and ethnicity advocate and student government leader on his college campus. 

Posted in: Advocacy and Activism

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