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Will the Voice of Washington Parents, Students, and Voters on Charters Prevail?

(Why Washington’s May 17th Supreme Court Oral Arguments Matter)

By Bing Howell, Chief External Affairs Officer, Washington State Charter Schools Association
Guest Blogger

Bing Howell, Washington State Charter School Association - League of Education Voters

Bing Howell

I remember reading the disheartening news about the Washington’s state Supreme Court decision to overturn the legality of charter schools in 2015 from afar. I was aghast.  At the time, I was living and working in the K-12 education space in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, but I was closely following the developments in Washington for several reasons:

  1. Public opinion had spoken in favor of charter public schools: Washington voters had passed Initiative 1240, an initiative designed to establish a charter public school sector in Washington.
  2. Washington’s charter law was strong: Washington legislators had taken advantage of the 41 other states that had authorized charters to create best-in-class statutes and regulations to govern charter schools and their growth across the state.
  3. There was strong demand from parents, who were expressing the urgent need for high-quality public school options for their children: Over 1,000 students and families eagerly enrolled to attend new charters in Seattle, Tacoma, and Spokane.
  4. High quality school leaders were leading the movement: You would be hard pressed to find any state in the country starting off with a stronger group of pioneering leaders than in Washington. An army of educational leaders from across the state and country joined forces to make a bold vision for Washington’s new public school sector a reality.

These seemed like the right conditions for a strong charter sector that would respond to Washington’s educational inequities and provide struggling students with new, high-quality, and innovative school models… (more…)

Posted in: Charter Schools

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Rural Counselors Come Together

By Ruvine Jiménez, Community Organizer, League of Education Voters Pasco Field Office

Jamey Jo Steele (R), Mansfield School District CTE/FFA/Shop/Agriculture Teacher, and students - League of Education Voters

Jamey Jo Steele (R), Mansfield School District CTE/FFA/Shop/Agriculture Teacher, and students

The Rural Counselor Network is a major milestone/deliverable of the Rural Alliance, which was first convened in July 2010 in Spokane with 35 founding rural school districts. In June 2016, several rural district superintendents and the Mary Walker School District initiated a strategic plan for the Rural Alliance. Together they have been able to attract new members and represent 79 districts, 46,000 students, 15 colleges/universities, and non-profit organizations.

The Rural Alliance mission is, “Partnering to increase options and opportunities for rural students, families and communities.” Their vision is. “Success for every rural student, family and community.” Their values are, “Student-Centered, Relationship-Based, Equitable, Innovative, and Inclusive.”

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Posted in: Higher Education

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Education Advocate of the Month: Maite Cruz

At League of Education Voters, we recognize all of the hard work that you do toward improving public education across Washington state.

We are pleased to announce our Education Advocate of the Month for May: Maite Cruz. Read about her advocacy for increasing expectations of success for her community.

May Education Advocate of the Month Maite Cruz - League of Education Voters

May Education Advocate of the Month Maite Cruz

18-year-old Maite Cruz is a senior at Chiawana High School in Pasco, and plans to study political science this fall at Western Washington University. Already she has testified before the state legislature in Olympia, testified before the State Board of Education, and has been a tireless advocate for her community group, Ambassadors of Lakeview Achieving Success (ALAS).

Maite met League of Education Voters Community Organizer Ruvine Jiménez during her freshman year of high school, when she started attending Pasco Discovery Coalition meetings. Ruvine showed Maite how she could become a more active advocate for her community and her peers, and guided Maite through the process of organizing community forums. Maite recalls, “Ruvine came to Lakeview, and showed us statistics about my school and how it compares with other schools.”

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Posted in: Activist of the Month

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Leveling the Playing Field in LaCrosse

By Codi Titus, Academic Counselor, District Test Coordinator, Special Education, LaCrosse Schools
Guest Blogger

LaCrosse High School 2017 seniors - League of Education Voters

LaCrosse High School 2017 seniors on College Signing Day

The town of LaCrosse, Washington, is often referred to as a piece of Paradise, and I would like to think that is a pretty good description of our schools, as well. LaCrosse is situated on the west end of Whitman County on the edge of the Palouse, and is home to LaCrosse Schools. Our small community of preschool through high school numbers around 75 students. Many of our classrooms are multi-age, both in elementary and upper grades. 11th and 12th graders take courses together, as do the junior high students and several elementary classes. This gives students greater opportunity for variety in their courses, and this is how our school leveled the playing field for our rural students who do not have access to Running Start.

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Posted in: Higher Education

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Helping students who need it most benefits all

By Kelly Munn, League of Education Voters State Field Director

From The Olympian:

Last month, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Chris Reykdal announced the new Washington School Improvement Framework (WSIF). The WSIF comes out of the state’s Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) plan and the recommendations of the Accountability workgroup, of which League of Education Voters was a part.

The new WSIF will provide schools and communities with new, rich data on school performance, with a focus on historically and systemically underserved students. The WSIF also focuses on the “now what” — labeling schools by the level of support they will receive from the state.

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Posted in: Closing the Gaps

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Our State of Education: Superintendent Survey

By Angela Parker, League of Education Voters Policy Analyst

When an educator earns a superintendent position, they know their job description does not just put them between a rock and a hard place – they will be between a rock, a hard place, and a fire. They hold responsibility for the current education and future educational prospects of the children in their school district. Simultaneously, parents, community members, and their staff expect their leadership in translating and implementing statewide directives and policy changes. And, of course, the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) holds them accountable to agency and legislative directives and outcomes goals.

This is why most superintendents develop a refined skill set – the ability to collaborate with a wide range of community and education leaders, the passion to advocate for their students and communities on the state level, deep and broad engagement with education research, an engaging and thoughtful political persona, and long term project management and planning abilities. This is also why we knew we needed to gather as much feedback as possible from superintendents across the state, particularly on their understandings of current and emergent issues in our K-12 schools.

We sent a survey request in November 2017 to 295 superintendents in Washington; 57 (19%) returned our survey, giving these results an 80% confidence level with an 8% margin of error. Our survey over-represents districts with 500 to 4,999 students, and under-represents districts of 499 students and less. Respondents hail from all areas of the state, but disproportionately represent rural districts.

Aside from demographic details, our survey was limited to three main questions:

  1. How urgent are issues such as achievement/opportunity gaps, student supports, teacher supply, college readiness, etc., in your district?
  2. Is your district experiencing new or different educational issues?
  3. What should we work on in the next legislative session?

This post summarizes our broad findings from the survey, and we commit to working on these issues with superintendents and educators across Washington.

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Posted in: Closing the Gaps

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Our State of Education: Principal Survey

By Angela Parker, League of Education Voters Policy Analyst

Principals are some of the busiest people in a school building. Rarely out of range of their walkie talkies, principals take responsibility for in-the-minute decisions about crises both large and small. At the same time, they must also craft long term strategic plans in the context of a rapidly changing school ecosystem. As principals often serve as one of the key lynchpins of policy implementation, we knew we needed to get a better sense of how they understand the current and emergent needs within Washington’s K-12 system.

We surveyed principals in Washington state to better understand what new and emerging issues their schools and communities are facing. In December, we sent a survey request to 2,034 principals in Washington; 180 returned our survey, giving these results a 95% confidence level with a 7% margin of error. Although elementary principals are slightly underrepresented in our survey, the overall proportions are not widely divergent from statewide proportions. Our survey also over represents smaller schools, those with 100 to 499 students, and larger districts, but does represent strong geographic diversity.

Aside from demographic details, our survey was limited to three main questions:

  1. How urgent are issues such as achievement/opportunity gaps, student supports, teacher supply, college readiness, etc. in your school?
  2. What new or different educational issues is your school experiencing?
  3. What should we be working on in the next legislative session?

This post summarizes our broad findings from the survey, and we commit to working on these issues with principals and educators across Washington.

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Posted in: Closing the Gaps

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Tools for Teachers to Help Our Kids with Trauma

By Arik Korman, League of Education Voters Communications Director

Last month’s Resiliency Conference brought together about 500 teachers, administrators, and parents at the Edward D. Hansen Conference Center at Angel of the Winds Arena in Everett to learn how to better support children who have experienced trauma.

Dr. Nadine Burke Harris - League of Education Voters

Dr. Nadine Burke Harris

Dr. Nadine Burke Harris, a national expert on the health effects of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs), kicked off day one of the two-day gathering with a moving keynote presentation. Dr. Burke Harris pointed out the sobering fact that that one in eight individuals have experienced four or more ACEs, and 35 million children have ACEs right now.

ACEs are related to our flight-or-flight response. When we experience trauma, our body releases adrenaline and cortisol, which inhibits our brain’s pre-frontal cortex (the area responsible for thinking) and gets us amped up. This stress response can help us avoid immediate danger, like running into a grizzly bear in the woods, but becomes problematic when the threat happens over and over again, like in an abusive home or if there are multiple changes in caregivers.

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Posted in: Closing the Gaps

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Korsmo’s Weekly Roundup: New Education Investments and Green Beer

Friends,

Chris Korsmo

Chris Korsmo

It’s not just the promise of green beer that has policy makers and advocates alike skipping through the almost-poked-up tulips; it’s that session ended on time and with an agreement many policymakers believe will satisfy the Supreme Court’s mandate in the McCleary decision. To get a sense for how it went, you can peek at our blog and our progress trackers. You might also get a feel from how the school district leaders are looking at things or check out our analysis from our last “LEVinar.” If you love context, you’ll love this national overview of education funding.

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Posted in: Weekly Roundup

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2018 Washington Legislative Session Wrap-Up

Daniel ZavalaBy Daniel Zavala, League of Education Voters Director of Policy and Government Relations

Remember that time last year when I went over everything “You Need to Know about the McCleary School Funding Agreement?” Well, it’s time for a refresh. The 2018 legislative session was all about McCleary 2.0, or what we can call, what to do when the Supreme Court says you’re still not quite there yet.

Many of us were expecting a quiet session where little would be addressed in education due to budget constraints. Two major events occurred: The Supreme Court’s November Order saying the legislature was still out of compliance and a Revenue Forecast that far exceeded most predictions regarding unanticipated future revenue collections. The end result: Another year of legislators in the 11th hour hanging ornaments (i.e. piecemeal policies) on an omnibus policy tree (i.e. Senate Bill 6362) that likely created more questions than answers. My prediction: we will be back next year sweeping up the broken ornaments. And while we may fixate on the 11th hour scrambling, it is important to reflect on the successes we saw this year in expanded eligibility with early learning and college financial aid, increased funds for special education and the State Need Grant, and raised awareness of social emotional and mental health needs.

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Posted in: Legislative session

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