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Archive for August, 2016

Rethinking Our Education System

By the LEV Policy Team

Children standing in front of a chalkboard - League of Education VotersIn the 2017 legislative session, Washington state is poised to make historic investments in basic education. But what will those dollars buy? The current program of “basic education” is not robust enough to meet our “paramount duty” and ensure that all students have the knowledge and skills to compete in today’s economy and participate in our state’s democracy. The upcoming investment provides an unprecedented opportunity to rethink our system of education and the resources and tools at our disposal to provide Washington students with the education promised by our Constitution.

What is required of our educational system will continue to change over time. We need to develop a program of basic education that can evolve based on current and future student needs and a funding mechanism that is flexible enough to support that shifting program. Let’s envision a program of basic education that is aspirational and that creates a new path forward for Washington state. The vision should include best practices, teaching and instruction that closes achievement gaps, supports that allow students to be the best learners, a program that doesn’t start with kindergarten and end with high school, but consists of the full education continuum—early learning through postsecondary.

Ample and equitable funding is necessary to build a robust education system that works for all children. However, money is a tool, not a solution. New dollars should be seen as a tool to improve our system for all students. We believe that this can be done by rethinking how we:

  • compensate teachers and staff
  • leverage funding and human resources according to meet student needs
  • recruit, retain, and train teachers
  • provide additional student supports
  • measure the effectiveness of our investments and improve practice

How should we redefine basic education? Well, we don’t have to look far. There are programs and practices across our state that are working but need the proper investments in order to be sustained and spread to other schools and districts. Over the next few months, we’ll share how money can be used as a tool to fix teacher compensation; recruit, retain, and train qualified teachers; and add necessary student supports that yield positive outcomes and close achievement gaps. We’ll also share stories from around the state on how districts, community-based organizations, and citizens are closing gaps and subsidizing “basic education” with local resources. Asking the paramount question: How can money be used to go beyond our current basic education?

#BeyondBasic

Read Part 2 of our McCleary blog series, Teachers: The Most Important Part of Our Education System

Posted in: Blog, Career and College Ready Diploma, Closing the Gaps, Early Learning, Funding, Higher Education, Teacher Prep

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Closing Gaps in Higher Education

SEA_162_blog photoBy Joyce Yee

Seattle Education Access (SEA) is a college access program that helps low-income, non-traditional students aged 16-29 in King County obtain a post-secondary education. SEA is the only college access organization in Washington state, and one of few in the country, that works with out-of-school young people and specializes in serving those who have experienced homelessness, students of color, foster youth, single parents and immigrants.

Over the past five years, SEA has served over 1,000 students: over half have experienced homelessness, 10% have been in foster care, one-third are single parents, 45% are the first generation in their family to finish a high school diploma or GED, 80% are the first generation in their family to attend college, and one third are immigrants, many of whom are undocumented.

SEA’s Education Advocates work with partner organizations throughout King County including nearly every community college, Open Doors (drop out retrieval), and organizations that provide basic needs to low-income youth. At community colleges, SEA staff often work in adult basic education, GED, and High School 21+ programs. High School 21+ serves young people over 21 who are not eligible to attend Open Doors schools. In these competency-based programs, students can earn high school credits through project-based learning or life experiences, rather than by taking assessment tests.

There is a language, culture and shared understanding, expectation and support that middle and upper-middle class families often have about their children going to college. The children of college-educated parents are more than twice as likely to go to college as the children of high school graduates and seven times as likely as those of high school dropouts. Only 5% of Americans ages 25-34 whose parents did not finish high school have a college degree.

Students from low-income backgrounds often do not see themselves as potential college students, so SEA Education Advocates help create a college-going culture at partner sites. When  a student sees their peers going to college, they are more likely to think of themselves as potential college students.

In the first phase, the College Prep program, Education Advocates works one-on-one with students to help them set goals for post-secondary education, put together a career and academic plan, and assist them with overcoming barriers. SEA staff have a vast knowledge of the degree, certificate, apprenticeship, technical/professional, and college programs available to students in King County and how they may fit a student’s life circumstances and earn them a living wage upon graduation. SEA teaches students how to navigate the education system, find a high school completion program to fit their needs, obtain financial aid, compete for private scholarships, make a budget, secure housing, register for classes, choose the right campus and degree program, and effectively access campus services. In addition, they provide tutoring, study guides, and funds for testing fees for the GED and college entrance assessment tests. This phase is typically from 6 months to a year, depending on how much support the student needs and where they are in their education pathway.

The second phase, the College Success program, begins the day a student starts classes, and supports students to stay in school and graduate successfully. Supports include tutoring, mentoring, continued career exploration, and program transfer assistance. SEA gives small scholarships to students, mostly under $350, to help them close budget gaps for books, bus passes, child care and first month’s rent. Ideally, Education Advocates’ support of students tapers off after they finish their first year as students learn the skills to navigate the education and financial aid systems themselves. In the past five years, 84% of SEA’s students have graduated from their program or are still enrolled in good academic standing.

Shouldn’t this be part of basic education?

#BeyondBasic

Posted in: Blog, Closing the Gaps, Higher Education

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Education Advocate August 2016

ED Advocate, League of Education Voters Newsletter, August 2016

Greetings

Chris Korsmo
Chris Korsmo, CEO

It’s hard to believe that summer is already halfway over and the Packers play the Hall of Fame Game this Sunday.  If you’re not watching football or the Olympics, hopefully you’ll be able to get out and about with your family.  Meanwhile in the education world, our Washington Supreme Court has scheduled the next hearing on the McCleary education funding lawsuit.  LEV has created a McCleary resources page here so you can follow the action.

Coming up on August 23rd, don’t miss our free Lunchtime LEVinar on the Opportunity Gap Bill and how it can transform basic education, presented by Rep. Sharon Tomiko Santos, chair of the House Education Committee. Join us to learn about next steps for this landmark legislation.

And we’re paying close attention to the race for Superintendent of Public Instruction.  As of now, it looks like Erin Jones and Rep. Chris Reykdal will advance to the general election in November.  LEV will continue to list candidate forums here.

May you and your family enjoy the second half of summer.

And thank you for all you do for kids.

Chris Korsmo signature

 

 

Chris Korsmo

Lunchtime LEVinar August 23 on The Opportunity Gap Bill: Next Steps

Lunchtime LEVinar on The Opportunity Gap Bill August 23rdHouse Bill 1541, which went into effect June 9, will soon play out in schools. Under the new law, students will no longer be suspended or expelled for discretionary offenses and better statewide data on student demographics will ensure that the system is working to keep all students on track and in school. All students suspended or expelled will receive educational services and school staff will be provided with new trainings that are sensitive to culture and positively support all students’ growth.

Learn more from Rep. Sharon Tomiko Santos, who chairs the House Education committee.  Moderated by our State Field Director, Kelly Munn. Register here

LEV‘s Activist of the Month

Vanessa Hernandez is LEV's August 2016 Activist of the Month

The work that we do to improve public education is only possible thanks to the support of our activists and advocates – the parents, community members, students, and teachers who stand up and speak up.

Congratulations to Vanessa Hernandez, Youth Policy Director at the ACLU Washington, who is working to end the overuse of suspension and expulsion in schools and to eliminate disparities in rates of suspension and expulsion of students of color and students with disabilities. Read more

Resources on the McCleary Lawsuit

Learn more about the McCleary education funding lawsuitIn McCleary v. State of Washington, the Washington state Supreme Court ruled that the State of Washington is violating the constitutional rights of students by failing to amply fund basic education. The Court ordered the Legislature to make “steady, real, and measurable” progress each year to fully fund K-12 public education by 2018.  LEV has gathered resources that will help clarify the debate over education funding. Learn more

Get Involved

COMING UP

LUNCHTIME LEVINAR

August 23, 2016 | The Opportunity Gap Bill: Next Steps, Online webinar


HELP SUPPORT THE LEAGUE OF EDUCATION VOTERS
| Donate online


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Posted in: Blog, Closing the Gaps, Education Advocate, Funding, LEV News

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Page Ahead on Stopping Summer Slide

Page Ahead on Stopping Summer Slide blog photoBy Nick Nogrady, Program Director, Page Ahead Children’s Literacy Program, guest blogger

Each summer, during the annual hiatus from school, many students lose their reading skills. This phenomenon is sometimes called “summer slide” or “summer reading setback.” It impacts children living in poverty the most, and its effects are cumulative.  It is estimated that up to two-thirds of the reading achievement gap experienced by low-income children happens during the summer months.

This is where Page Ahead comes in. Founded in Seattle more than 25 years ago, Page Ahead has become the largest children’s literacy organization in Washington state.  We combat summer slide by giving students access to their choice of books as well as holding free book fairs for students in kindergarten through second grade at the end of each school year. The Page Ahead’s book fair program goes by the name of Book Up Summer (BUS).

Based on research by Dr. Richard Allington, ensuring easy and continuing access to free self-selected books to read over the summer is a useful strategy for addressing the summer reading setback and addressing the reading achievement gap. This book fair allows low-income students to self-select 12 free books to read over the summer for three consecutive years.  At the conclusion of three years Dr. Allington followed, study results indicated students gained approximately 40% of a grade level in reading.[1] These results are similar to children attending summer school during those three years, at just a fraction of the cost.

At Page Ahead, we target elementary schools with a high percentage of low-income students, and low third grade reading test scores. By targeting these schools, we reach students with little or no access to books in the home, and families unlikely or unable to visit the library in the summer months.  More than 80% of students we serve are low-income, and 40% are bilingual.

Book Up Summer works. In Seattle schools that have completed the three year intervention, the gap between low-income schools we serve and the citywide points average for the 1st and 2nd grade reading assessments has been closed by 70%.

Personally, this is a great program to run. I enjoy travelling across the state to meet with educators passionate about closing the opportunity gap. I meet teachers and administrators from farming communities in central Washington, mountain towns in the Cascades, from Seattle to Tacoma to Spokane—these educators know how much these books will mean to their students and families, as well as their communities.

The day of the fair is also very special. The kids can’t believe they get 12 books to keep forever. Just like adults, there are impulse buyers and discerning shoppers.  After they pick, each student gets a nameplate to put in each of their books; every book is new and truly their own.

This summer we served nearly 10,000 students at more than 60 schools across all of Washington state.  Next year we plan to expand the program to nearly 14,000 students. While the program is very cost effective with a budget of less than $50 per student, an expansion of this level will require a dramatic increase in the organization’s budget.  Page Ahead will be seeking new corporate and foundation partners, as well as developing resources in local communities where the program is offered.

If Washington state is looking for an effective and efficient way to improve the reading skills, and reduce the reading achievement gap for low-income students, Book Up Summer offers a promising model of reading intervention.

To learn more, get involved, or make a donation, visit Page Ahead’s website: www.pageahead.org

 

[1] Allington, Richard L., Anne Mcgill-Franzen, Gregory Camilli, Lunetta Williams, Jennifer Graff, Jacqueline Zeig, Courtney Zmach, and Rhonda Nowak. “Addressing Summer Reading Setback Among Economically Disadvantaged Elementary Students.” Reading Psychology 31.5 (2010): 411-27. Web.

 

Posted in: Blog, Closing the Gaps

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Activist of the Month: Vanessa Hernandez

August Activist of the Month Vanessa Hernandez and family

August Activist of the Month Vanessa Hernandez and family

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 August: Vanessa Hernandez.

The Every Student Counts Alliance (ESCA) is a new collaboration between organizations and individuals in Spokane working to end the overuse of suspension and expulsion in Spokane Public Schools and to eliminate disparities in rates of suspension and expulsion of students of color and students with disabilities.  LEV is part of the Alliance, along with the American Civil Liberties Union of Washington and its Youth Policy Director, Vanessa Torres Hernandez.

As Vanessa explains, “The Spokane district has discipline rates that are some of the highest in the state, disproportionately applied to students of color, Native American students, and students with special needs.  Spokane has a lot of challenges, and making a difference in this community will impact the lives of thousands of students and set a positive example for the rest of the state.”

One of the primary goals of the Alliance is to promote positive and restorative school cultures, where teachers and students feel equally supported, individual needs are met and voices are heard.  This ensures that students remain in school on a path toward academic and life success.

Vanessa comes to this work both as a legal advocate and as a former teacher.  A native of Guam, Vanessa grew up in a family devoted to public service.  During college, she taught in after-school and summer school programs throughout the country and also volunteered in public schools.

After receiving her M.Ed. in Teaching and Curriculum from Harvard University, Vanessa began a teaching career at Roxbury Preparatory Charter School in Boston, a charter school serving low-income students of color.  She was moved by how the students who faced steep academic and socioeconomic challenges excelled in a school focused on student and teacher support and achievement.

Taking the experiences, lessons, and memories from teaching in Boston, she transitioned into teaching 7th graders in Washington state.  Her class focused on empowering students with knowledge, developing their skills to understanding bias, evaluate information and advocate for what they believe is right.  Vanessa then transitioned to the University of Washington School of Law, where she participated in a public service law program.

Vanessa first worked with the ACLU as an attorney with a project focused on criminal justice reform and the challenges facing people returning from prisons and jails.  After a short time working with ACLU, she realized that she loved how they employed a long-term view and relentless push for justice, similar to her work ethic and mindset.  This year, she will celebrate her five-year anniversary with the organization.  Vanessa started in the litigation department and moved in October 2015 to the position of Youth Policy Director, where she continues her passion for helping others and using the power of the law to contribute to social movements.

Promoting student success was an important concern  this past legislative session, and it led to  passage of the Opportunity Gap Bill (HB 1541).  Vanessa says it is a great first step in the right direction, in terms of recognizing that a student’s behavior should not affect the education he or she receives.  But she adds that there is a lot more progress to be made.

Vanessa’s hope for the future is to strengthen the fundamental building block of ACLU, ESCA and LEV’s progressive work in education by coalition-building and community.  She says, “These two aspects are incredibly important because change occurs when people are working together, listening to one another, and exposing themselves to the stories and challenges out there.”

Posted in: Activist of the Month, Advocacy and Activism, Blog

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