Donations are made to the League of Education Voters (LEV) and the League of Education Voters Foundation by individuals, groups, and businesses throughout the community. These generous donations from you who believe in high-quality public education allow us to ensure measurable progress toward LEV’s vision that every student in Washington state receives an excellent public education from cradle to career.
Below are our donors from the fourth quarter of 2016, October 1–December 31. We regret any omissions or errors to the donor list. Please contact our Development Associate, Jessica Nieves, by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling 206.728.6448 with any questions or to correct any information.
By the LEV Policy Team
Part of defining basic education is determining what each and every student should have access to in their school. Currently, our system does not guarantee access to student supports that are critical to many students’ academic success—including support staff like counselors or nurses, and programming like additional tutoring. There are a number of approaches we can take to making sure that students receive the supports and resources they need.
The Learning Assistance Program
Currently, Washington provides additional supports to students that are struggling academically through the Learning Assistance Program (LAP). Districts receive funding for this program from the state based on their enrollment of low-income students. Districts must spend LAP funds on services from a list of state-approved, evidence-based practices, including one-on-one or group tutoring and extended learning time, as well as limited use of funds for staff professional development and parent engagement. Beginning in the 2015-16 school year, districts must prioritize spending on K-4 literacy interventions. This focus on elementary literacy combined with limited LAP funding has resulted in some districts being unable to provide services to students in middle and high school grades.
The current funding formula for LAP does not align additional student supports and actual student need. While funding is provided to districts based on low-income enrollment, services are provided to students based on academic need, as identified by the district, regardless of income. This results in two potential misalignments. First, all academically struggling students may not be funded if there are more students in the district that need support than there are low-income students. Second, the full range of academic and non-academic needs of low-income students may not be met if they are not eligible for LAP services.
The funding formula also takes into consideration the salaries of certificated teachers in the district, even though many program services are provided by paraeducators. This creates inequities between districts because funding is different based on the characteristics of the adults in the district, not the students, even if student need is the same between districts.
LAP can be used as a mechanism to target the McCleary investments towards student supports with some changes to increase effectiveness. These changes may include:
While considering changes to LAP, we should also be examining the needs of low-income students that are non-academic and, therefore, not addressed by the Learning Assistance Program.
Access to Support Staff
Washington provides districts with minimal funding within the current funding formula for support staff, such as counselors, social workers, nurses, and family engagement coordinators. Many of the allocations for these positions are fractions of full-time employees, meaning the amount of money districts receive is inadequate to hire these staff for more than a couple of hours a week. Our current funding structure also does not require districts to spend money allocated for specific staff positions to hire those staff. This allows districts flexibility in staffing to meet the needs of their communities, but, particularly in our environment of inadequate funding, also means that students may not have access to these staff because districts are unable or choose not to hire them. Possible ways to ensure that every student has access to the services provided by support staff could include increasing funding for support staff; requiring minimum staffing levels for support staff, potentially triggered by high-need student enrollment levels; and facilitating and encouraging partnerships between community-based service providers and districts and schools.
Special Education and Transitional Bilingual Instructional Program
Washington provides districts with additional funding for students qualifying for special education services and for English Language Learners (ELL). These funds must be spent on qualifying students, however, the funds provided by the state may not be adequate to meet the needs of all students. Particularly with special education students, the state limits the amount of special education funding to 12.7% of district enrollment. As a result, districts with larger special education student populations than the state cap may not receive the necessary funding to serve all of their students.
While special education students and ELLs receive specialized services, they also interact regularly with all school staff. However, often only the specialized staff are trained in best practices for working with these student populations. This means that outside of the specialized programing students receive, they may not be adequately supported in the school setting as a whole. Students receiving special education or English language services also may have non-academic or additional academic needs outside of those programs, and require access to other school support staff and services.
As we explore ways to better support every student in Washington schools, this could include examining the adequacy of funding for special education and the Transitional Bilingual Instruction Program (ELL students), funding professional development for all school staff in working with special education and ELL students, and encouraging schools and districts to integrate the services and supports students need outside of the specialized programming, rather than providing services in a silo.
Integrated Student Supports and Non-Academic Considerations
Students’ academic success is determined by a number of factors, including social emotional skills, physical and mental health, academic self-concept, family situation, and expectations of school staff. It is important that students have access to both the academic and non-academic supports they need in order to be successful. Washington has been taking steps to improve access to non-academic supports in recent years, including the development of social emotional learning (SEL) standards and the passage of HB 1541, which creates the integrated student supports protocol. The Washington Integrated Student Supports Protocol (WISSP) will be a tool districts can use to assess student need, strategically partner with families and community based organizations, and leverage district and community resources. These are important steps in our state’s efforts to address all of the factors that impact student achievement, but more can and should be done as we invest in 2017. This could include funding professional development for school staff in cultural competency, trauma-informed practices, and social emotional learning; funding family engagement coordinators for schools; and investing in continued implementation of the WISSP and SEL benchmarks and standards.
Investing in student supports, both academic and non-academic, and providing student access to services through staff, state investment, and partnerships can ensure that our McCleary investments will improve student outcomes.
Read Part 1 of our McCleary blog series, Rethinking Our Education System
By MyKaila Young, LEV Intern
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 January: Heather Wallace.
Every New Year brings the opportunity for infinite possibilities. As the year begins, I’m sure you wonder about all the people, events and experiences that will occur over the next 364 days. Being in the right place at the right time opens the right doors to many of the great experiences and people that will make the year worthwhile, and that was the case for Heather Wallace when she crossed paths with LEV Spokane Regional Field Director Sandra Jarrard.
Heather’s background is in sociology, and she is connected with the importance of what many may call “Overall Life Experience.” One thing that stood out to me about Heather was that she’s not concerned with numbers and statistics, but how things really are and ways to address issues that may be viewed as broken or problematic.
For 15 years, she worked mainly with adolescents and then went on to the administrative level of medical management. When she wasn’t making an impact in the way she had envisioned, she did something about it and went back to school and eventually attained a Masters in Communication and Leadership Studies with a focus in dialogue and community development. She currently works at Spokane Regional Health District in a program that she very much enjoys called Neighborhoods Matter. This is a program that focuses on the social determinants of health and how to improve neighborhoods to in turn improve the overall health of the community at large.
Neighborhoods Matter works directly with residents to identify their neighborhood’s health and safety concerns, and then they work to address these concerns in the best way possible. They leverage community resources and focus on how to connect and advocate for safer neighborhoods. Heather says, “Safe neighborhoods mean people are out more and active, which contributes to long-term success.”
With the help of LEV, the Inland Northwest Early Learning Alliance, and the Spokane Regional Health District, Heather put together a conference that focused on realistic accountability. Sometimes quality is better than quantity, and that was surely the case for last month’s Spokids 2020, where the overall experience and discussion contributed to great strides for changes and hopes in 2017. Being lower in numbers but higher in perspectives allowed people to come together in a way that allowed many thoughts and ideas to come together and move forward. Collectively, everyone came up with action plans to help envision how that will look.
With so many organizations working to improve education and support families in need, and all the many changes that occur within various positions at numerous organizations, Heather sees great work being done at many different levels, which is something that is encouraging to us all.
The Spokids 2020 conference was a great way to figure out how similar organizations and families could come together, develop common goals, and leverage partner organizations to work together with the idea of a common community goal. Heather’s common community goal is that all children in Spokane County will achieve social-emotional readiness by kindergarten.
Next month, Heather hopes that word will spread about Spokids 2020’s useful discussions in order to home in on specific projects and areas of focus that will be able to identify success and how conference participants plan to measure progress as a group.
From a public health perspective, social-emotional health serves as the foundation for academic indicators and how likely a child is to succeed. Addressing these issues are imperative because if students are living in unhealthy environments and don’t have access to primary medical care and their basic needs aren’t being met, especially on an emotional and social level, they can’t learn. Heather is advocating for student supports and ways to measure a child’s social-emotional health early in the education continuum, which will help with discipline and a wide range of other issues that teachers have in the classrooms.
A student’s behavior reflects their social-emotional health and not their intelligence. I think we can all agree that we shouldn’t blame the child for the shortcomings of a system that isn’t tailored to the needs of every student, but instead we should blame the lack of resources that prevents the child from moving forward. A start in the right direction until we can get adequate resources for all students is to figure out ways to positively impact a child’s social-emotional health, which is why Heather’s work is vital for communities throughout Washington state.
Heather has three daughters, and she hopes her daughters will find work that they are passionate about. She hopes that they travel and learn about other cultures, and go on to be lifelong learners. Heather says, “A paycheck will only take you so far, and if you can’t find meaning in the work that you are doing, then money will never make you happy.”
By Diana White, Edmonds School Board, Guest Blogger
Many industries, companies, and systems have placed a growing emphasis on diversity in hiring, and the education arena is no different. Most of these organizations have found difficulty finding ways to increase their numbers of ethnically diverse employees. It is a difficult proposition.
The Edmonds School District, in coordination with several partners, believes we have found a way to move the needle to hire and retain more diverse candidates entering the teaching workforce.
Historically, the Edmonds School District teaching staff has been largely white, with nearly 92% representation in 2016.* However, the ethnic makeup of the district’s student population is over 50% non-white. Students of color now comprise the majority of our population, and they have been increasingly vocal about teachers, educators, administrators, and curriculum that reflect their diverse community.
The Edmonds School District’s early initiatives were similar to many districts – attending diversity recruitment fairs, specific publications, word of mouth, etc. As a result, the number of new teachers of color would slowly move in the positive direction, only to be thwarted by our inability to retain qualified teachers of color.
The Edmonds District and its team realized that a ‘grow your own’ model would be needed to provide the best success at recruiting, retaining and training teachers of color. Over the course of 18 months, the District, along with the school board, post-secondary educational institutions, a local philanthropic foundation, and a nonprofit, formed the Teachers of Color Program.
Here’s how it works:
Current classified employees who work in the Edmonds School District are eligible to apply for a Teachers of Color Scholarship. Many of these employees already work with our students as para-educators, coaches, and behavior specialists, and they are passionate about our students. The classified staff is more ethnically diverse, they live locally, and many are parents of children who have graduated from or attend our schools. Some have post-secondary education, but all have a desire to earn a teaching certificate.
A designated district employee is another integral part of the process. The Teacher Education Advancement Coordinator promotes and assists all employees who wish to enter the teaching profession. Examples include assisting potential students with financial aid opportunities and grants, or identifying pathways to alternative certification programs. A great amount of work has been done to develop the application process, interview, and vet the candidates for the Teachers of Color Scholarship program. The inaugural round produced 18 candidates, of which 4 were selected as our initial cohort. More candidates will be added as funding permits.
Our candidates are expected to undergo significant training on critical race theory, participate in mentoring programs, and advocate for other potential candidates. All are leaders in our schools, and role models for our students.
The funding model has focused primarily on a generous grant from the Hazel Miller Foundation. We also receive tuition waivers from Edmonds Community College, and hope to expand the number of tuition waivers in the future. Our research found that students historically struggle with financial barriers such as childcare costs, test and book fees, transportation to and from school, and inability to take time off for student teaching. The Hazel Miller grant allows flexibility to help students with living stipends, emergency expenses, and other costs outside of tuition that help the student succeed in attaining their teaching certification. Some of our students come to us already with a degree, but many will require assistance with the bachelor’s degree and teaching certificate. Our relationship with candidates will continue for several years, and support and assistance is tailored to each Teachers of Color recipient.
The biggest challenge to the Teachers of Color Program is I-200, Washington’s affirmative action initiative passed by voters in 1998. This law restricts hiring based on sex, age and ethnic diversity. No program monies are passed through the district, but instead are funded through a 501c3 nonprofit founded specifically to support this cause. The Teachers of Color Foundation was formed to provide a place for grants, tuition waivers, and other financial support for this program.
It took the collaboration of many to develop the Teachers of Color Program – a process that can be replicated in other districts. This program has the potential to make a visible impact on the ethnic diversity of educators in our district and mirror the diversity of our student population as we adapt to changing demographics across all our communities.
* Edmonds teacher diversity data from the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI)
By Jake Vela, LEV Senior Policy Analyst
League of Education Voters Communications Director Arik Korman sat down with Governor Jay Inslee to discuss his 2017 education priorities, how to build bridges in today’s political climate, and how to close the opportunity and achievement gaps.
League of Education Voters Communications Director Arik Korman asked current and former Regional Teachers of the Year about their teaching philosophy, their greatest accomplishment in the classroom, and how they would prioritize education spending in Washington state if they were in charge.
In this podcast, LEV was honored to interview:
Camille Jones, 2017 Washington state Teacher of the Year
Shari Conditt, 2015 ESD 112 Regional Teacher of the Year from the Woodland School District
Kendra Yamamoto, 2017 ESD 112 Regional Teacher of the Year from the Vancouver School District
Elizabeth Loftus, 2017 ESD 189 Regional Teacher of the Year from the Oak Harbor School District
John Gallagher, 2017 ESD 114 Regional Teacher of the Year from the Port Angeles School District
Lynne Olmos, 2012 ESD 113 Regional Teacher of the Year from the Mossy Rock School District
Lyon Terry, 2015 Washington state Teacher of the Year
By Camile Jones, guest blogger
One day, I was browsing the shelves in Seattle’s Douglas Truth library when I noticed a cookbook for children with attention deficit disorder and autism. I found it very interesting and useful, being that I was diagnosed with ADHD in elementary school. As I perused the recipes, I noticed that none of them contained sugar-based products, with the exception of the naturally occurring sugars in fresh fruit. I continued to read. Eventually, I was captivated by a quote from a top nutritionist who stated that the first meal we eat in the morning shapes the rest of our day.
Upon reading this, I reflected on my childhood and thought about all of the processed foods that both my mom and school gave me in the mornings, and how I might not have been labeled as a child with ADHD had I received the proper diet. I disagree with society’s popular notion that children who have trouble sitting still and/or paying attention in class are inclined to have ADHD, ADD, or any other mental disorder. In fact, I believe that these children are simply reacting to the copious amounts of sugar that they have been fed in their diets. The thought of this intrigued me so much that I did some diagnostic calculations of my own.
What I came up with me made my jaw drop. One cup of syrup has 214 grams of sugar. One waffle has 11 grams of sugar, and a cup of orange juice has 21 grams. That amounts to a grand total of 246 grams of sugar in one-half of an average elementary school meal, which is 221 extra grams of sugar than a growing boy or girl is supposed to consume per day, according to FDA guidelines. This is unacceptable, but before we start pointing fingers at the parents for such glaring nutritional mistakes, we need to look at the reasons why there is such a widespread lack of nutritional knowledge in general. While I do believe there should be mandatory classes to educate the parents, I also believe that the entire American school food system needs to be reformed. As it stands now, unhealthy, sugary meals devoid of nutrients are being dished out to the children who will grow to be the future of America.
After acquiring knowledge about the impact breakfast had on me as a child, I feel that I have a better understanding of myself, and the children that we as adults have the privilege of interacting with. As I continue my studies to become a teacher, I cannot wait to share my thoughts with not only my colleagues, but also with the parents who grant me the opportunity to educate their young: the future parents of the world.
This is why I want to teach.
“The more you know, the more you owe.” – Luis J. Rodriguez