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Back to School and Back to Quality

Posted by Chris

This is a special week. One million children will fill their backpacks with new books, nervous energy and optimism and board yellow buses to return to school. Some are all but guaranteed to end the school year far ahead of where they are now. Too many will be less fortunate, experiencing less opportunity for growth, or worse yet, stagnation.

This school year we citizens have an opportunity to partner with educators, principals, and policymakers to ensure that all of our kids are headed back to school and back to quality.

Our vision: Every student is able to read by third grade. Every child deserves to arrive on their first day of kindergarten prepared to succeed. Unfortunately, over the past five years pass rates on the 4th grade Reading WASL have declined. One of the most effective ways to get us back on track is to invest in high-quality early learning programs, like Washington Head Start, and professional development for child care providers. As the Basic Education Finance Task Force redefines basic education, early learning must be included as one of the most promising avenues to impact student achievement from the very beginning.

Our vision: An excellent teacher in every classroom. Every child deserves a quality education from kindergarten and beyond, and excellent teachers are profoundly important to this journey. But three in five students in Washington attend an underperforming school where they may not learn what they need. That’s unacceptable. Fortunately solutions are in the works. The Basic Education Finance Task Force will propose measures to professionalize the teaching profession, which is likely to include an evaluation system to reward and support great teaching. Additionally, the State Board of Education will propose a series of steps that aim to turn around schools that underperform year after year.

Our vision: Every high school graduate is ready for college and work. Every child deserves to choose his or her path after high school. Unfortunately, not all high school students are given this choice in Washington. Only 41 percent of high school graduates meet college entrance requirements — and over half of entering community college students take remedial classes they should have mastered in high school. To help ensure a high school diploma means college and work ready, the State Board of Education adopted CORE 24 as the new graduation requirement framework. CORE 24 aligns high school course work with college entrance requirements and workforce expectations. Before the Board can implement these new requirements, we need to persuade the Legislature to fund more than just a five-period day.

The time for bold solutions is now.

The reform efforts mentioned above will be debated and decided during the upcoming 2008-09 school year. In this year of education, it is appropriate to assess not only student achievement, but citizen involvement. What will our citizen report card show?

Join us to change the world by changing our schools. We’re parents and community members who saw a need for a more independent voice and real results for all children. We’re dedicated to the idea that every one of our million school children deserves an excellent education and we need you.

Visit didyouknowcampaign.com to learn more about what you can do to make a difference for kids.

Posted in: Closing the Gaps

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Katarina’s trip to Vancouver

Boarding a bus at seven in the morning to attend a State Board of Education meeting was not at the top of my summer to-do list. Honestly, I would have never guessed that attending a State Board of Education meeting would ever be on my calendar.

With my eyes a little puffy and my stomach empty, my excitement meter was running on the low side as I headed to the office two hours earlier than normal. As I slowly dragged my body out of my dad’s car, I was instantly greeted with smiles and eager faces ready to show the State Board what we’re all about.

As the bus arrived at the meeting, our show-stopping swag captured the eyes of many in the room. Our message was even stronger than our fierce red shirts – every student should have the opportunity to succeed. We all brought our own stories, each one as powerful and unique as the next.

It was not until this summer that I realized how fortunate I was. Hearing some of the testimonies really helped me see how difficult it may be without the guidance, mentoring and encouragement I received through family, school and Rainier Scholars. Every student is not offered a chance to know success but I believe everyone should be able to know what it feels like to succeed. Through Core 24, every student will have the opportunity to make decisions that will directly affect their future. It offers a solid academic foundation with flexibility to alter courses in order to accommodate post high school graduation plans.

I can now say I have attended a State Board of Education meeting, learned a lot and had fun at the same time. Not only did we show everyone at the meeting how Core 24 would be beneficial to all students, but we also showed them how important student voices really are. We are the future and the time for change is now.

Katarina is our summer intern and also a Rainier Scholar.

Posted in: LEV News

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Simran’s testimony, Western Washington Student

Just shy of spending two weeks as an intern here, I attended the State Board of Education meeting in Vancouver yesterday to testify in support of CORE 24. As I watched the number of miles decrease on the exit signs, my thoughts were about how the Board would react to the proposal, if much of the public would attend, if they would be in support of CORE 24, and if the students’ testimonies would be enough to sway the Board.

Upon arriving, I was ushered into a crowded room. I was intimidated by the formality of the meeting, yet comforted by the red shirts scattered throughout the sea of people. As I began listening to one woman testifying against CORE 24, I was taken aback by her opinion of students struggles in education. I can’t get over how people use technical issues like finances as an excuse for not supporting issues like CORE 24 and how easily people forget why Washington State made a board that makes decisions on public education. For the students, of course!

When my turn came, I hope to channel the importance of this decision, and how the Board is responsible for an uncharted number of children who would go through our state’s school system. I wanted to convey how we could set the students up for failure if we weren’t decisive. As another testifier said, “…..not making this decision would be criminal”. I was pleased that the Board seemed eager to listen to the students, and that my words proved to be meaningful.

It was a tangible experience and I found it empowering that people can make a difference despite the obstacles. My goal is to help other students realize that it isn’t difficult to speak out, but it takes having someone to listen that makes it count.

Here is an excerpt from my testimony:

My name is Simran and I’m a public school graduate heading into my third year at Western Washington University. I was fortunate to have parents and an older brother who were familiar with high school four-year plans, and knew how to prepare for success in enrollment in college. By taking AP courses and being highly involved in my high school, I had gained enough experience to ensure my position at a four-year university. I was lucky. We need to make sure that every student is just as lucky . . .

Despite the obvious technical issues that lie ahead with Core 24, it is important for you as a member of the State Board of Education to understand the fundamental theme behind this proposal. This is for the betterment of all students and will give them an opportunity to excel. They are the future of society and I believe that all of you have their best interests in mind. Thank you for continuing to do what you do for all students.

Posted in: Advocacy and Activism

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Sea of Red

Posted by Heather

The State Board of Education are meeting today and tomorrow in Vancouver to vote on the proposed Algebra II requirement and have further discussion on CORE 24 (proposed new high school graduation requirements).

To show support for CORE 24, a busload of 50 students, parents and advocates rode down with us to the meeting. Wearing red “Change our world, change our schools” t-shirts, we were literally a sea of red in the room. Even more amazing than our visual presence was the student perspective offered by 10 members of our group.

Public testimony on CORE 24 was heard for more than an hour, and our group took up about a third of that time. After hearing from some of the usual suspects — most of whom support CORE 24 despite their concerns over funding and implementation — our speakers offered some perspective a bit closer to the ground.

Student speakers Roxana, DeAngela, Sebastian and Simran gave great testimony about how CORE 24 will help prepare ALL of our kids for success after high school. They all spoke to how raising expectations will benefit students, not hurt them, and creating a post-secondary plan will help students visualize their futures. All four asked the SBE to not wait to raise graduation requirements for fear of leaving more of their peers behind.

Let’s hope their testimony leaves SBE members seeing red over our current low expectations for students and voting to continue with CORE 24 as a framework.

Posted in: Advocacy and Activism

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Our exciting new addition: Katarina, A Rainier Scholar

Posted by Katarina.

Hi, I’m Katarina. Born here in Seattle, I am an upcoming high school junior. I have attended private school my whole life but I’m very interested and eager to learn more about issues in the public schools. Through Rainier Scholars, I was offered this opportunity to intern at the League of Education Voters office.

I consider Rainier Scholars more than just an academic program but as a family. The positive and continuous encouragement from everyone at RS has led me to truly believe an individual can make a difference in this world. By helping to develop future leaders, Rainier Scholars has helped me and my peers see our potential and have motivated us to step to up and prove that success is for everyone. I have been a part of Rainier Scholars since fifth grade and looking back, I can see the difference they have made in my life.

In two years I will be off to college. At this point, I am still unsure about what school I want to attend or what profession I want to pursue but with the support of school counselors, family and Rainier Scholars, I know I am heading down the right path. As a child I wanted to be everything. Now that I am older I know I can be anything, I just have to believe in my dreams and know my options.

I enjoy playing volleyball and just kicking back in the summer sun with friends. I spend a majority of my time with my two sisters and parents. Art is a large part of my life. I danced ballet for six years and I have recently started to draw and paint more. I played the piano and flute for a little and I listen to music whenever I can. I am also an active member of my church and youth group. Summer is my favorite season and I’m always up for an adventure.

Posted in: LEV News

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“The time for bold education reform solutions is now.”

League of Education Voters Foundation Proposes Major Reforms to Washington’s Education Finance System

Proposal to be presented to Basic Education Finance Task Force

SEATTLE – The League of Education Voters Foundation (LEVF) will propose major reforms to Washington’s public education system at the Basic Education Finance Task Force meeting Tuesday, June 10.

“The time for bold education reform solutions is now,” said Lisa Macfarlane, co-founder of the League of Education Voters Foundation. “We’ve got a once in a lifetime opportunity to redesign our public schools to work for the next 30 years.”

LEVF’s proposal, A Way Forward, is the culmination of a yearlong effort to develop a new education finance model that prepares all students for college and the workforce.

“We based A Way Forward on one simple premise: we need a public education system that will prepare all students to succeed in today’s competitive economy,” Macfarlane said.

A Way Forward proposes a series of reforms and investments to achieve results and boost student achievement.

“Today’s education finance system is overly complex and too prescriptive,” said Ken Hoover, superintendent of Monroe Public Schools and co-author of A Way Forward. “This proposal would give local school leaders more flexibility to solve problems and then hold them accountable.”

“The state does not provide enough funding for what it costs to educate students today. Communities have stepped up to subsidize public education through local levies.” Macfarlane said. “Our proposal redefines Washington’s commitment to public education.”

LEVF will present A Way Forward to the Basic Education Finance Task Force in Olympia on Tuesday, June 10 at 9 AM in House Hearing Room B, O’Brien Building.

Click here to view the full proposal.

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The League of Education Voters Foundation is a 501(c)3 charitable organization dedicated to engaging ordinary citizens, educators, policymakers and the media in the effort to provide a quality education for all students in Washington State from early learning through post-secondary education.

Posted in: Press Releases & Statements

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School Levy Elections Benefit from Simple Majority

Posted by Michael

Hundreds of school levy volunteers are breathing a sigh of relief today.

Last night’s levy results show that the education community’s victory in November is making a huge difference for thousands of students across the state.

While many communities continue to approve their levies at rates above the old 60 percent standard, a large number of levies passed thanks to the new 50 percent simple majority requirement.

School leaders, educators, parents and students in places like Kennewick, Ellensburg, and Centralia will not have to brace themselves for a costly and time consuming second levy attempt.  Instead, they can continue to focus on educating students.

We’ll be holding our breath for close elections around the state, especially in Thurston County where the North Thurston, Rochester and Yelm school districts are hovering just below 50 percent.  Late-arriving ballots do tend to favor school levy elections.

For bond elections, the supermajority requirement continues to thwart our schools.  Only two out of five bond proposals are passing as of Tuesday night.  In Lake Chelan, the bond is passing with just over 61 percent.  This shows that every vote is especially important for school bond elections.

While simple majority saved the day for many school districts, the League of Education Voters is confident school supporters will not take this election for granted.

And we’ve not lost sight on what’s at stake.

A large part of the success of our state’s students and schools comes from levy funding.  That’s because the state continues to NOT fully fund basic education services.

The League of Education Voters would like to see a new K-12 finance system adopted next year that fully funds basic education and returns levies to their intended purpose of funding school enrichment programs.

Posted in: Funding

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