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Education Funding Takeaways from California

By Daniel Zavala, Director of Policy and Government Relations

Daniel Zavala, League of Education Voters Director of Policy and Government RelationsTwo weeks ago, I went with a Washington delegation to Sacramento, the birthplace of the Local Control Funding Formula (LCFF), California’s shift from state-controlled funding to local decision-making. Joined by fellow education advocates and stakeholders, including members of our state legislature, we met with members from California’s education community. This included staffers with government agencies, association members (e.g. California Teachers Association), and public advocates.

Our field trip was an exploration of the options available to our state in pursuing changes to our education funding system. California is just a few years into their model, and we got some great first-hand accounts of lessons learned and how they set up their system. However, the state is still grappling with exactly how they want to measure success, and districts are modifying their behavior based on their newfound spending freedom.

So what is the LCFF? The LCFF is a funding formula in California intended to provide resources more equitably to students with learning and socio-economic barriers, while providing greater flexibility to district leaders and school educators to serve and respond to their students’ needs.

California’s response to funding education fits squarely into three realms: the wild west of the 1960s and before, the Serrano* era of the 1970s where the state supreme court required equal funding of districts and wound up with over 40 restricted categorical funding areas leaving little flexibility in spending decisions, and the LCFF age that focuses on equitable funding based on student need. The shift from Serrano to the LCFF came after the Getting Down to Facts report highlighted issues and provided recommendations for a weighted funding model and shift to local control.

The LCFF operates under three funding streams: 1) a base grant that only varies based on the grade level band but is equal for all students across the state; 2) a supplemental grant of 20% more funding above the base grant for low-income, English-learners, and foster youth; and 3) a concentration grant of 50% more funding above the base grant for each student above a concentration threshold of 55% of students with high-needs (e.g. if a district has 60% economically disadvantaged students, then the 5% above that 55% threshold would generate the concentration grant increase). One important note is that special education funding is calculated and administered separately from the LCFF. Even without touching special education funding, this structure change resulted in a roughly $11B shift of resources toward students identified as high-need.

So now that districts have additional funds for students identified as high-need, what is the state doing to ensure fidelity of taxpayer money? In conjunction with the LCFF, districts compile a three-year Local Control and Accountability Plan (LCAP) with annual updates that outlines how the allocation of funds will address state defined priority areas including: 1) basic services, 2) implementation of state standards, 3) parent involvement, 4) student achievement, 5) student engagement, 6) school climate, 7) course access, and 8) other student outcomes. These plans are then evaluated based on a rubric with indicators focused on: 1) academics, 2) college and career readiness, 3) graduation rates, 4) English-learners, 5) chronic absenteeism, and 6) suspension rates. Where districts are not implementing plans with success, a regional California Collaborative for Educational Excellence (CCEE) provides technical assistance and support. Where districts fail to improve** or implement recommendations from the CCEE, schools are referred to the State Superintendent of Instruction (SPI) for intervention.

Takeaways/Lessons Learned

I know that is a lot to take in, and even this overview doesn’t get into the granular details of the program. With some background knowledge about LCFF and its origin, it is also important to note the takeaways and guidance given to our Washington delegation. First, the state must track how dollars are being spent, and specifically, where dollars are being spent with academic success. When we are talking about fulfilling our Washington state constitutional requirement for ample funding of basic education, we have a right to know where those public funds are being spent. Second, LCFF was a huge culture shift for schools and districts in how they worked with budgets and funding. That shift has to be accompanied by capacity building so that districts can build expertise on how to use data to identify needs to drive spending decisions. After all, the additional money is only helpful when the spending decisions are informed and targeted. Third, to help build capacity, some of the additional funding needs to be spent on training. If our state wants to do this well, we need to make sure we actually focus on quality implementation and give our school leaders the skills to effectively shift their spending practices. Which leads me to the final takeaway: implementation has to be phased in, so that schools and districts have time and incentives to learn how to operate under a new structure without fear of reproach during that transition.

So what does this mean for Washington? I think the California example presents a good framework for us to learn and discuss what would work in Washington. The LCFF is what a diverse group of Californians decided their schools needed. Now we have to embark on a discussion with ALL education stakeholders to learn how we can create a system that works first and foremost for the benefit of our students. One thing is certain, the current system is serving only some of our students and schools well, but it is not serving ALL our students equitably.

Our trip to Sacramento sparked three thoughts that I will leave with you:

Should we focus our efforts on continued district-level budgeting control or school-based budgeting? For instance, there are roughly 600 schools in California with majority high-need student populations within districts that do not reach the concentration grant threshold.

How does an equitable funding system take into account regional cost differences, whether that is cost of living or hard-to-staff subjects and schools requiring additional funding for compensation?

Finally, how do we ensure that there is community-level engagement, understanding, and transparency in our funding system?

 

*Serrano v. Priest lawsuits and Proposition 13 (1971-1978)

**defined as districts that “fail to improve outcomes of 3 or more student subgroups in 1 or more priorities in 3 out of 4 school years.”

Watch our LEVinar on Education Funding Takeaways from California

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Student Voice: Just as the First Lady Said, “When They Go Low, We Go High”

By MyKaila Young, LEV Intern

MyKaila Young, League of Education Voters internThere isn’t a law that forbids any one of us from understanding how capable we are or how capable we are allowed to be. A few posts back, I mentioned my friend Deonte Bridges and how he was, in a figurative sense, the “Guru of Virtues.” The other day, he posted something online that I feel we should all understand. He wrote, “The system is run by two things in my opinion: Fear and Dependency. Until you give those up, you will find yourself mentally and physically controlled by things and faces that you have never seen.”

I learned a very long time ago, mainly through my stepdad’s harsh but necessary teachings, that you cannot depend on the system entirely as the sole source for your education, and you should always, if necessary, depend on something that is strong and logical. For me, I depended on actual people who made real changes in this nation through their perspectives and strength to prevail, because I figured that form of education would always be necessary. I happened to be right for once.

I believe if Malcom X or Martin Luther King were still alive, they would want us to remember that we didn’t get to where we are today by waiting for the system to change. We got to where we are today by challenging the system and taking back what was rightfully ours, and we must continue to do the same now. There is so much more power in shared knowledge and perspective than there is with restricted access to basic awareness that the broken system provides. I hope that now, more than ever, students recognize that the power is within them, but it’s up to them to embrace it.

My reaction to the election was that this is yet another time when a nation has been seized. Throughout the election, I wondered and if anyone ever thought to ask, “When was America ever great? And how could he possibly make America great again if it was never really great?” Despite what has shaken a nation over the past several days, and what will be a very different reality moving forward in the next four years, we all have to remember that this country was built on unjust ground due to an unfair system. Certain individuals took it upon themselves to decide who would be privileged and who would be burdened, without any logic or true understanding of what it takes for a person to truly be privileged, and how easy it is for a person to be burdened by intellectual poverty and be completely unaware of it.

What surprised me the most was that now, more than ever, millions of people understand a day in the life of a student who has to go to under-resourced schools, taking on ample amounts of adult challenges and anxieties, and continuously having and deal with systematic bullying and oppression as early as 9 years old due to the education system alone. It was shocking how an entire nation felt these emotions all at once. It’s not just certain people or ethnic groups who have to deal with the burden of being uncertain. Now we all do.

The system may never change, but that’s why it’s more important than ever to consider what your role is within the system, and how you can make a difference. Sure, protesting and uniting in that way does some good, but it’s time to support each other’s progressions and fundraise for our kids who will now probably have fewer resources than before. It’s time to use the unity and bond that has been created over the past several days and progress it. Sure, one person can make you feel as if you have no value or power, but the opportunities surrounding the McCleary education funding debate ask you whether that is something you will continue to believe. Will you settle for believing you are worth less than you are, because someone makes you feel that way? I hope the answer is “No,” because you can’t allow fear to carry you through a lifetime of experiences that have already been deemed to be uncertain.

What is McCleary saying to us now? Well, it’s saying that things are going to be different moving forward, but that the fight for quality, equitable education must always be at the forefront of what we continue to advocate for. Every person, regardless of background, color, age, or sexual orientation, is going to be affected in some way by this election. However, it is up to us to change the perspective for our students and help them to redefine the barriers of privilege and poverty, because nowadays you have to ask yourself, “Is there really a difference now with the current changes in the White House?” Could McCleary be saying that, despite the unfortunate event that has transpired, the one thing we still need to do is come together and figure out a way to engage and inspire our students in a unique way? I think that’s exactly what it is saying.

George Eliot once wrote, “There is no despair so absolute as that which comes with the first moments of our first great sorrow, when we have not yet known what it is to have suffered and be healed, to have despaired and have recovered hope.” Regardless of the outcome, the presence of McCleary will always serve as a reminder for every student, now more than ever, to believe the power that they hold is unique to them.

McCleary is trying to get people to realize that, although the American Dream is just an illusion, it doesn’t mean you stop dreaming and give up. Instead, change the perspective of your life and live as best as you can. Remember how this nation was built, and how hard individuals have had to fight for change and equal opportunity in all areas of life in America. Education is the foundation for all great things and, sadly, many people in power understand that. What must we do moving forward? Be optimistic. Encourage our students to believe in something greater than themselves.

There is always going to be someone or something that is going to tell you that you cannot do something or be something. But as Albert Einstein said, “Life is like riding a bike. The key is to keep moving forward.” I lived my life in fear for quite some time, not knowing whether I was going to need another unexpected surgery that I couldn’t afford, or whether I was ever going to be able to become a great writer. Now that I am a few years older, I have learned that often we don’t fear things because we are afraid; we fear things because of their presence.

No one knows what the future holds, and it’s a scary reality. I’m sure we all dream of an equitable and prosperous educational system that empowers every student but, truth be told, why are we depending on a broken system to empower the fresh and priceless minds of our kids that is supported by a divided nation? How can we as advocates, parents, and teachers help our kids perfect and realize their power and skills?  I have an idea, but it’s going to require some time, patience and, most importantly, hope in not the system but in each other.

Education is the art of learning and creating perspective. No one can ever take away your ability to learn, as long as you agree to never stop thinking, reading, and questioning everything. That’s how I found my way to journalism.

 

Read MyKaila’s fourth post, Is McCleary Paving the Way to a New American Dream?

Posted in: Blog, Closing the Gaps, Funding

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Every Student Succeeds Act Public Comments

Every Student Succeeds Act - League of Education Voters

Parents, students, teachers, and community members can help shape the public education policy that will affect students for years to come.

The Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) has created a draft Consolidated Plan that outlines how the state intends to implement the federal Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA). From now until mid-February 2017, OSPI is taking your comments on the Consolidated Plan. Submit your feedback HERE.

ESSA builds on key themes of the bill it replaces, the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) Act, while allowing states more say in how to address struggling schools. While NCLB brought focus to education gaps across the nation, the bill was punitive towards schools that weren’t succeeding. ESSA instead allows states to dictate what measures will be taken, working to improve schools by offering professional development opportunities, teacher recruitment and retention incentives, and more.

Sponsored by Senators Patty Murray (D-WA) and Lamar Alexander (R-TN), the U.S. Congress passed ESSA in December 2015. The bill will be implemented in America’s schools in the 2017–18 school year.

Learn more about the Consolidated Plan public comment period at www.k12.wa.us/essa.

 

Posted in: Blog, Closing the Gaps, ESSA, School Discipline

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Student Voice: Is McCleary Paving the Way to a New American Dream?

By MyKaila Young, LEV Intern

MyKaila Young, League of Education Voters internDuring my sophomore year through the helpful guidance of a great mentor of mine, I was admitted into the Masters in Education Policy class at the University of Washington. It sounds really impressive but, truth be told, I was terrified. I was in a class with current teachers, Masters candidates, and students in the processes of pursuing a doctoral degree. I was just a sophomore who wanted to be part of revamping the current education system. I had no knowledge of how advocating for policy changes worked. I didn’t know if I would ever have the confidence to challenge the very people who had so much power over my K-12 schooling. All I really had was my experiences and memory of the great fight that I put up to make it through the system by any means necessary.

The first day of my graduate class was actually the first day of my bio anthropology class. Evolution never really intrigued me until I changed the perspective. The first chapter and lecture was on the evolution of birds. It’s not a super exciting topic but I worked with it. The book gave a very bland example of birds in the Galapagos Islands and how they changed or “evolved” over time. It was tragic (not really) in the sense of birds evolving over time and eventually dying off. There were birds with small beaks and birds with larger beaks. In hindsight, there was a variety of birds that carried their own unique traits, some that carried advantages within their own birthright, and some that did not have any advantages at all. A drought happened, which caused the seeds – the main food supply on the small island – to become enlarged. The disadvantaged birds were the ones that had smaller beaks. They couldn’t eat the larger seeds once they became enlarged due to the drought. They were disadvantaged because they were not physically equipped to break down or swallow the enlarged seeds that were produced by the environment. I remember thinking, “Well that sucks – how unfair.” The birds with the larger beaks were seen as the ones with the greatest advantage because they could in fact digest and eat the seeds, and take away the food supply from the disadvantaged. The only reason the larger-beaked birds survived over the smaller-beaked birds was because of their given or inherited advantages. The short-beaked birds died off because they found it impossible to survive without the proper resources. My professor mentioned that he believed that they tried to survive, but were unable because their disadvantages were just too great. That really intrigued me.

I remember not paying attention really until he started going in-depth about how there was always a “struggle for existence.” Learning how organisms have evolved and survived over time was fascinating in the sense that animals are not the only organisms that compete to survive in unruly or extremely disadvantaged environments.

One thing that I was reminded of this past week when I attended the Washington Student Achievement Council’s Pave the Way Conference in Tacoma was that, when it comes to education and the reality of the current system, receiving a quality and equitable education should no longer be a means of survival.

In society, an individual’s socioeconomic status (SES) is seen as a determinant in how a person is able to maintain, sustain and progress in life. Whether it be going to college or finding a career, SES in a sense allows you to see your advantages and disadvantages within the scope of your environment. The disadvantages within the environment are circumstances that can include addiction, poverty, abuse, neglect, and a wide range of other issues on top of a failing education system that a student is required to participate in.

The problem I see, as well as many advocates, is that the current system is not designed to support the advancement of every child. Instead, it’s tailored more to generalized outcomes than actual investments in advancements.

At some point in time, those who come from a particular SES – whether it be high, middle or low – that individual has to live in the “reality” of that status for some time. That’s a tough reality that we all have to face. We are given our disadvantages and advantages based on a status that is imposed on us at birth. I am sure there are many people much like myself who have looked at their surroundings while growing up and have said, “I didn’t ask for my life or parents to be this way,” or “I didn’t ask for all these problems.” Our survival abilities as humans come from how we deal with our unruly environments and imposed status and realities, but for most kids who are counting on the education system to help them to make it out and have a better chance at life, that’s failing them as well.

We need to stop expecting children to have the answers to overcoming poverty because there isn’t a special algorithm, especially when a quality education isn’t yet an option for everyone who wants one.

I haven’t heard of a school system that has properly equipped, fully funded without question, and strategically and morally invested in giving every child the proper resources to achieve. Instead, I continue to see a child’s background and SES being used as a shield or a reason to not fully invest, because they are seen as not as having as much potential as students who come from moderately stable (if not extremely stable) environments. It is not up to the system to decide who has the most potential and who is worth investing in, and who is not. That decision should be left up to the child.

Just as those short-beaked birds didn’t choose to be born in what would later on be considered as a “disadvantage,” they had no choice but to figure out a way to survive within their environment and to make that disadvantage work, or literally die trying. People do not choose to be born into harsh situations and environments. I can’t imagine someone waking up and saying to themselves, “Today seems like a great day to be burdened with hunger or extreme poverty.” I couldn’t imagine a child choosing to be in that position or in disadvantaged environment as a direct result of their family’s socioeconomic status. I strongly believe that McCleary is trying to get the very people who have the power to change the life experience of every child through a quality, immersive, and fully funded education.

We see in today’s society the rich getting richer, the poor getting poorer, and those in-between making it, but barely making it. Even within school districts, we see certain schools that have more access to resources because they are performing at higher levels than the schools who do not, which is only a direct result of not having a multitude of resources on top of the imposed realities that their education conveys to them. That was one of the strongest points that I heard at the Pave the Way Conference.

McCleary is helping to ensure that the decision is left up to the child and not the system. It only makes sense to invest in all students equally because if not, that sounds illegal.

At the Pave the Way Conference, I remember checking the agenda of breakouts after the morning speaker, Gary Orfield, finished his powerful address. He focused on the impact of policy and equal opportunity for success in American society. I checked my agenda and took notice that one of the sessions was about the “Realities of Poverty.”

One of the main goals of the session was to educate individuals on how poverty affects the development of an individual’s self-concept and influences a person’s values and beliefs. One thing that really resonated with me was that, when it comes to creating policies and truly advocating for kids from various backgrounds who may be experiencing various levels of poverty, there must a deeper understanding of how barriers are built within children that burden them every morning they walk through the doors of their respected schools. We have to see how poverty becomes a frequent reality for tomorrow’s adults, which is primarily due to a social system that does not provide pathways out of poverty that are realistic and long term, but instead generalized investments for expected outcomes.

I think McCleary is challenging the very people who have the power to create change within the current education system in the state of Washington. I believe that McCleary is asking what they are really afraid of.

The Pave the Way “Realities of Poverty” session went into great detail about how, in today’s society, we are socialized to judge and to not fully be aware, which causes us to miss out on the understanding piece. The facilitator gave a powerful example of how she once saw a man with rotten teeth and her first thought was, “He must be on drugs,” instead of taking a step back and thinking about our American society where over 40% of underserved communities do not have access to quality, affordable healthcare. Maybe his teeth were rotten because he does not have the means to see a dentist. She then went on to speak about how children see themselves through what is given/expected of them. McCleary could allow every student in the state of Washington to know that they will survive and access the American dream. After all, today’s children are tomorrow’s adults.

 

Read MyKaila’s third post, Could McCleary be Asking for More Inspiration?

Posted in: Blog, Closing the Gaps, Funding, Higher Education

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Education Advocate November 2016

ED Advocate, League of Education Voters Newsletter, November

Greetings

Chris Korsmo
Chris Korsmo, CEO

Election Day is finally upon us! If you haven’t already done so, please remember to vote.

This election season, LEV is collaborating with our inspiring partners to create a better future for every Washington student. 

Read below for more about our work.

Thanks for all you do for kids. We couldn’t do it without you.
Chris Korsmo signature

 

 

Chris Korsmo

Art teacher with students - League of Education Voters

Great Teachers Need Great Preparation

Research consistently shows that teachers have the strongest school-based impact on student performance. The impacts of a highly effective teacher or low-performing teacher can affect students for years to come and influence a student’s likelihood of college attendance and persistence. Our educational system must equip teachers with the skill sets required to meet the needs of a student body that is more diverse each year. Read more

Weighted student formula LEVinar - League of Education Voters

Education Funding Takeaways from California

Governor Jerry Brown proposed a new school finance plan for California in the 2013–2014 budget, called “Local Control Funding Formula.” It increased funding to school districts with a larger number of disadvantaged students by financially weighting those students according to need, simplified current byzantine school finance regulations, and gave school districts more autonomy over finances. Sharonne Navas, Executive Director of the Equity in Education Coalition, will visit California to see firsthand how their new system is working. On November 29, she will present her findings and answer your questions on whether California’s new education funding can work in Washington. Register HERE

League of Education Voters November 2016 Activist of the Month Michele Johnston

Activist of the Month

At the 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 Activist of the Month for November: Michele Johnston. Learn about Michele’s work advocating for public education — especially when it comes to creating an environment where every teacher and student has the autonomy to teach, and learn, the way that works best. Read more
 

Superintendent Randy Dorn - League of Education Voters

OSPI Roles and Responsibilities

One of the most important races in today’s election is for the next state Superintendent of Public Instruction. But what does the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) actually do? Randy Dorn, our current state superintendent, and Gil Mendoza, deputy superintendent, answer your questions about OSPI’s role and work, which levers OSPI has to make changes in education policy, and what the community should expect from OSPI. Watch HERE

Senator Andy Hill - League of Education Voters

Remembering Senator Andy Hill

Frank Ordway, former LEV Director of Government Affairs and current Deputy Director at the Washington State Department of Early Learning, remembers Andy Hill, education champion. Read more

Get Involved

COMING UP

February 11, 2017 | Access, Equity, & Excellence: Annual Parent and Community Training, Tukwila Community Center, Tukwila
March 30, 2017 | LEV 2017 Annual Breakfast, Sheraton Hotel, Seattle


LUNCHTIME LEVINARS

November 29, 2016 | Education Funding Takeaways from California, Online webinar


HELP SUPPORT THE LEAGUE OF EDUCATION VOTERS
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Posted in: Activist of the Month, Advocacy and Activism, Blog, Closing the Gaps, Education Advocate, Elections, Funding, LEV News, Teacher Prep

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Remembering Senator Andy Hill

By Frank Ordway, guest blogger

Senator Andy Hill - League of Education VotersIt is unfortunate that the first time I return to this blog a year after leaving the League of Education Voters is for the purpose of memorializing Andy Hill, though I can think of few people more worthy of praise and remembrance.

LEV, and my, interactions with Andy were momentous for the organization, me personally and the children of Washington state. I remember my first substantive conversation with Andy. He came to a LEV community event shortly after he was elected. We had not endorsed Andy. He arrived, unannounced, right from the soccer field. We got a cup of coffee and went to the back of the room to talk.

His first words were about how he felt there was a lot work we could do together, and was committed to doing so. We had not endorsed Andy, so I was impressed with his maneuver and commitment. We talked about the various challenges confronting the state in general and in education, and where our values aligned. We agreed on a host of things, and disagreed on many as well. But we pledged to work together on the issues where our values aligned.

Andy Hill never wavered from that pledge, and over time we were able to increase the number of items we worked on together. He played an important role in expanding opportunity in early learning, K12 and higher education. One area where we initially disagreed related to the College Bound Scholarship program, but after long talks about the results, he supported the program. Andy was always open to ideas and data.

All too often, the confines of political party membership limit both politicians and advocates. People refuse to work across the aisle; people refuse to give credit to members of parties they oppose, even when they are right. I, and LEV, was able to escape this trap with Andy and get meaningful things done for the students and parents of Washington state in a bi-partisan fashion.

He was the model of quiet, determined leadership. Anchored in his values, he knew the right thing to do for him and was comfortable with his decisions, even when they were not in alignment with his party or advocates like me. I will always remember and be thankful for that attribute.

In my last conversation with Andy, which was regrettably via text, I told him I was praying for him and his family. I also told him to kick cancer’s ass. In addition to thanking me, he said, “That’s my plan.”

He may have lost the battle against cancer. All one can do is control what you can and, where Andy had influence, our state benefited greatly.

We will miss you Andy, but your legacy and approach to public service will be remembered by all of us lucky enough to work with you.

With great admiration and respect,

Frank

Posted in: Blog, Early Learning, Higher Education, Legislative session

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Activist of the Month: Michele Johnston

By MyKaila Young, LEV Intern

League of Education Voters November Activist of the Month Michele Johnston and her daughter

November Activist of the Month Michele Johnston and her daughter

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 November: Michele Johnston.

Arthur Ashe said, “One important key to success is self-confidence, and the key to self-confidence is preparation.”

Growing up, Michele Johnston received what many would consider to be a decent education. She attended a private Catholic school for primary, was home-schooled in 5th grade, and went on to public junior high and high schools. She attended North Idaho College and earned her degree from Eastern Washington University in microbiology. Reflecting back on her schooling, she remembers it as not being very stimulating. She says, “It was a lot of just teaching to the tests.” The vital missing component was an emphasis on critical and creative thinking. “Socially it was good – I just wasn’t engaged in the academic part.”

The way in which we understand the world is primarily rooted in the way that we are taught to think critically about situations and problems. In turn, these processing and thinking skills help us make decisions that have the potential to impact our life in positive and negative ways. If students are only taught to take a test, then what have they really learned to help them get through the next phase of life? If this piece is missing, how can we expect students to really prosper and grow as lifelong learners and truly be ready to succeed in college and beyond?

Michele’s hope for her six-year-old daughter currently attending charter public school Spokane International Academy (SIA) is that as her daughter progresses in her education through the K-12 system, she will always be excited about learning, not only at school, but throughout her life. The goal of education is to show students how learning is a lifelong skill and experience. “I love SIA,” Michele says. “SIA helped my daughter overcome her shyness, gave her a new confidence to engage with people and advocate for herself, and it has changed how she feels about learning and school.”

Michele believes that every child deserves to have a similar, if not greater, experience with their teachers in a way that helps them transcend any personal barriers that may prevent them from being comfortable and confident enough to learn. As a result, Michele has made over 200 phone calls and sent nearly 200 emails to lawmakers encouraging them to support charter public schools and school choice. She has reached out to Superintendent of Public Instruction candidates Erin Jones and Chris Reykdal, and even did phone banking for Senator Steve Litzow, chair of the Education Committee.

Michele worries that our public school system doesn’t adequately prepare students to earn post-secondary credentials. “We’re sending our young adults to college to pay a university price tag for a high school education,” she says, referring to the need for many students to take remedial classes. “Most students take on a substantial amount of debt in order to stay in college, and it’s not fair for them to spend a year catching up on skills they should have been able to master in high school.”

Michele’s commitment to education is driven by a desire for an innovative system designed to meet the needs of every child. Michele says, “Our current education model was conceived in the industrial age. Since then, we’ve seen huge advances in transportation, electronics, and even phones – but most schools are still operating like they did 100 years ago.” Her vision for a newly designed education system involves an environment where every teacher and student has the autonomy to teach, and learn, the way that works best.

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

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Great Teachers Need Great Preparation

K-12 Education - League of Education VotersOur conversation around redefining basic education continues with an examination of an often overlooked part of the education system, educator preparation.

Research consistently shows that teachers have the strongest school-based impact on student performance. The impacts of a highly effective teacher or low-performing teacher can affect students for years to come and influence a student’s likelihood of college attendance and persistence. Our educational system must equip teachers with the skill sets required to meet the needs of a student body that is more diverse each year.

Our understanding of how to better support, engage, and teach students grows each year, yet many preparation programs have not used this growing body of research to change how they prepare teachers. This knowledge can be a valuable asset as we prepare future educators to meet the challenges they will face in the classroom. Unfortunately, most teachers feel that their teacher preparation program left them unprepared for the challenges of teaching.

Improving preparation programs is an important starting point to ensure every student has access to effective teachers. One way to improve these programs is to include longer, more intentional student teaching experiences. Some programs only require one-semester of student teaching which doesn’t always provide aspiring teachers with enough time to experience the range of challenges of running their own classrooms.

In contrast some teacher preparation programs, like Heritage University, have developed longer, more intentional approaches to student teacher placements. Aspiring teachers will work in a classroom for more than a year as they build the knowledge and understanding that they will need to succeed when they become a teacher. It is new approaches to teacher preparation like this that will help to provide the necessary foundation for aspiring teachers.

Another means to ensure new teachers develop the appropriate skills to be successful in increasingly diverse classrooms is providing a curriculum in preparation programs that is reflective of the skills and understanding needed to positively impact student learning, like trauma informed instruction and culturally responsive instruction. This type of training should also be provided to current and veteran teachers.

Trauma informed instruction/care

  • “In this approach, the adults in the school building understand the prevalence and impact of adverse childhood experiences, the role trauma plays in people’s lives, and the complex and varied paths for healing and recovery.”
  • “A trauma-informed approach asks: ‘What happened to you?’ instead of ‘What’s wrong with you?’ It is designed to avoid re-traumatizing already traumatized people, with a focus on ‘safety first’ (including emotional safety), and a commitment to do no harm.”

Culturally Responsive Instruction

  • Culturally responsive instruction is “recognizing the differences among students and families from different cultural groups, responding to those differences positively, and being able to interact effectively in a range of cultural environments.”

If teachers are the most significant school-based factor on student achievement, appropriately preparing teachers is a common sense route to improving student outcomes. What can Washington state do to better prepare and support teachers?

#BeyondBasic

 

Read Part 1 of our McCleary blog series, Rethinking Our Education System

Posted in: Blog, Funding, Teacher Prep

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Student Voice: Could McCleary be Asking for More Inspiration?

By MyKaila Young, League of Education Voters intern

MyKaila Young, League of Education Voters internWith the proposal of a new and improved system that will help to ensure that all students feel confident and equipped, one thing I, as well many educators, policymakers and parents may be wondering is: how can the new system set in place with McCleary be used to inspire students moving forward? In addition to teaching kids the fundamentals of learning, how can we teach them the fundamentals of a living an enriched and motivated life in a way that’s engaging for every student – those who have a strong network of support at home and those who do not?

To begin this week of following McCleary, resilience is best defined as the ability to work with challenges in a way that teaches and enriches, and in turn allows an individual to thrive. It’s what many might consider to be one the great and rare virtues in life. I mean rare in the sense that not all students understand how to obtain it, where it comes from, etc. The task is figuring out how all students can understand it and, in turn, embrace it in a way that it is maintained to college and beyond. How do you get students to become resilient?

It’s not very often when I’m at a loss for words. In fact, I can count on my hand the number of times that I’ve been so inspired or surprised to the point I could barely write or think. All I wanted to do was just hold on to that moment. This has only happened a few times. The first was when I read Life Without Principle for the first time. The second was when I received the Gates Millennium Scholarship. The third was when I stood in front of the Eiffel Tower last year on Thanksgiving. The fourth was when former Congressman John Lewis acknowledged my presence, and the very last experience was a bit peculiar because it consisted of crossing paths with a complete stranger and receiving a card.

A business card is a business card, but he didn’t have just an ordinary business card. He had an answer to exactly what the K-12 system is missing. Part of what McCleary understands and recognizes is based on the statistics and feedback of the current system, but this stranger who handed me his card really understood, and built an entire organization around it.

In hindsight, his organization propels the missing fragment in the K-12 system that some students find, while others, unfortunately, do not. His story was printed on the back of his card, and my entire life was completely changed. I was overtaken with inspiration, and once again unaware of what to do with myself for the fifth time in my life.

I’ve met a lot of remarkable and inspiring people over the years, but this encounter was a bit different. His story filled my heart with so much hope and possibility for the future that it inspired me to the point of silence. He is also a Gates Millennium Scholar, CEO of From Hardships to Scholarships, and goes by the name Deonte Bridges. He is someone who I’ve added to my list of Great Inspirations.

Deonte is originally from Atlanta, and he introduced me to the impact that this virtue of resiliency can have when it comes to education.

I attended the Annual Library Association Conference in Orlando, and former Congressman John Lewis was one of the keynote speakers. I was staying at the Hyatt Regency and near the reception desk when he walked by with a few of his colleagues. I waved at him and he waved back at me. As if life wasn’t great enough after that moment, I was able to casually network with my fellow GMS Scholars over the next five days. It was in that same lobby that I was lucky to be in the right place at the right time to meet Deonte Bridges.

We were standing by the second elevator towers in the Hyatt and he was casually dressed in a white shirt. At the time, I didn’t know how powerful he was, or who he was for that matter, because I’m a little behind in ALL social media movements. That’s one thing I promised myself at the beginning of next year I would work on – using my social media accounts more, instead of writing in my journals all the time. I didn’t know that he took the Internet by storm when he graduated his senior year, around the same time he was welcomed into the GMS family.

Deonte was first male valedictorian of his high school in more than a decade and earned over $1,000,000 in scholarships – all while overcoming hardships such as the untimely death of his brother, his mother’s diagnosis with cancer, and being robbed at gunpoint. In a live interview he invited me to watch, he said he remembers a time during his freshman year of high school when he told everyone that he was going to get a million dollars in scholarships. Everyone thought he was crazy and didn’t believe him or in his ability to make something like that happen as an inner city youth. When he did it, despite everything else that was going on in his life, it took the world by storm. He had that same Alice in Wonderland Confidence I spoke about in my previous blog.

With over 1 million YouTube views of his powerful speech about overcoming the odds, people in Europe, Africa, and throughout the U.S were taken away by the beautiful virtue he carried throughout the K-12 educational system and Morehouse College. From there, he was featured on CNN Live, in Essence Magazine, and on a wide range of talk shows.

Deonte currently speaks to educators and students on topics such as education, character development, resilience, and values, to name a few. His full motivational series answers that burning question we all have: how we can instill this rare but vital virtue into the hearts and minds of every student in the K-12 system.

I guess you can say he’s like the Guru of Virtues when it comes to empowering young students to understand and acknowledge how much potential they have, and how they can unleash it no matter which obstacles or unexpected visits from adversity they may have.

As a young girl, when I would read literature, it was solely because I recognized that I had the potential to be great at something. I had a small hint when I was 9 that it would be writing. I just needed to figure out what I could do with it, or if I was even capable of doing anything with it. In Henry Thoreau’s Life Without Principles, I learned that although society may try to limit what I believe I can do, or make me feel that I didn’t have any potential, ultimately the decision was up to me. I related to his thoughts, words and perspectives in a way that helped me protect my potential at any costs, and in turn become resilient.

Although, Aristotle, Martin Luther King, Malcolm X and the great Henry Thoreau have all left behind their legacies, I will never forget the experience of finding someone to relate to. But every student is different. We can’t expect every student to pick up a copy of the books I read and expect them to become resilient, or we can’t expect every student to do what Deonte did to become resilient, because we all find resiliency in different ways. However, what we can do is give every student access to different programs and resources that will help them ultimately decide how they can become resilient in a way that is unique to them. That’s what From Hardships to Scholarships offers, and more.

When I read his card, he reminded me of the same exact hope that I carried with me over the years when I made the choice to always see the value and potential in my life, even if I was part of a system that made me feel like I did not matter. The only difference between my earlier inspiration and how it’s maintained today is that I found someone who is still living I can relate to – but my resiliency is different it is from how he found his. I share mine through writing, and he is actively working and sharing his in a way that’s helping all students and faculty think about what they want their legacies to be, and how much potential they have.

It made me wonder if McCleary is really asking whether there is enough funding geared towards programs to help kids who may not have the best sources of inspiration. Would they benefit from leadership programs offered in a more engaging way?

Is there enough money and time being invested in helping kids personally develop their passions and sense of self, in addition to learning the fundamentals? Where can we start when considering how to recruit more faculty that can relate to students and what they experience once the schools doors close? From Hardships to Scholarships answered all my burning questions after getting to know the founder himself through his organization and motivational series.

I often wonder how we can expect a child to go on to do great work and fully utilize their Education Passports beyond high school if their inspiration, sense of self, and drive isn’t fully developed. Education is something that is lifelong. It’s not just about algorithms, equations, or how Christopher Columbus had it all wrong. It’s about growing into your potential and then, in turn, sharing it with people around you in such a way that contributes to making the world a better place. It’s about preparing students for the next phase of life. And although that’s an algorithm within itself, it’s something that Pi squared can’t always solve.

McCleary and redefining what basic education means is a start to helping students figure out how to solve the more complex algorithms when the school doors close. Life is hard for us all at certain points. We should encourage all students to wear their potential as armor and allow their passion and knowledge to carry them to the success that every person, whether student or educator, desires.

 

Read MyKaila’s second post, Alice in Wonderland, Imagining McCleary

Posted in: Blog, Closing the Gaps, Funding

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Student Voice: Alice in Wonderland, Imagining McCleary

By MyKaila Young, League of Education Voters intern

MyKaila Young, League of Education Voters internNelson Mandela once said, “Education is the great engine of personal development. It is through education that the daughter of a peasant can become a doctor, a son of a mineworker can become the head of the mine, and the child of farm workers can become the president of a nation.”

As promised, over the next few months I’ll be following the McCleary ruling and breaking down its significance and which benefits it will bring to the current K-12 education system for students, from my perspective.

What is McCleary? It’s what Malcolm X would call the New Passport or what Nelson Mandela might call the Great Engine of Personal Development. If we look at the K-12 system as the Leadership Academy that helps cultivate and guide students in the right direction in pursuit of becoming the next generation of leaders, it may be a little easier to understand.

Our Declaration of Independence says that every person has the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. The Declaration of Independence is the great equalizer and, in this scenario, will act as the “The Boss.” So, The Boss says that every person who enters into this Leadership Academy will leave prepared, satisfied, confident, equipped, and ready to take on the challenge of becoming part of the next generation of leaders.

In fact, The Boss says it’s illegal to not fully invest in the Leadership Academy and prosperity of every student. In hindsight, students are not allowed to be robbed of a quality and enriching education. That’s both beautiful and cause of one of the biggest debates throughout the country. Are students really receiving the resources and guidance they need to prosper? In other words, are we teaching kids to drive but when it comes time for them to get behind the wheel, did we only really give them 2 ½ tires?

Unfortunately, not all students are leaving the Academy ready for the world and feeling confident to be great leaders, which makes The Boss sad. The appointees who have been entrusted with the funds to create and support the programs that help cultivate the leaders through the Academy, or making sure all kids leave the Academy with four tires and not 2 ½,  now have to go back to the drawing board.

Here at the League of Education Voters, we are advocating for a stronger Leadership Academy, or K-12 system for students. Under McCleary, we would like to redefine what basic education is, and which resources are really needed for student success to cultivate the strongest, confident and most prosperous leadership for every student, regardless of his or her background.

It should no longer be about who has the greater means; it should be about having an equal playing field in pursuit of helping every student make the economy and the world a better place. McCleary can give every student their own individual and valid Education Passport – one that won’t just get them through high school, but to college and beyond. One that will take them to unimaginable and prosperous places.

When I applied for the Gates Millennium Scholarship (GMS) back in 2013, it was nine essays, no word limit, full creative control to answer all questions – a little gift I felt was just for me to be able to showcase my skill and love for writing. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation gave me my passport to prosperity and unimaginable places, college being the first stop and then the opportunity to study in Spain, Paris, Ireland, and next to Poland in just a few months.

Currently, it is required that all students receive 1,000 hours of instruction annually. How these hours are split up throughout the years to create the greatest leaders is dependent upon well, what the teacher can do with the resources the appointees give. I found through my own personal experience that my teachers needed more support with what they wanted to do to help my classmates and I learn as much as possible in a way that works for us. Look at it like this, if students create the best art by using color instead of lead pencils, but with 21 students in a class and only enough money to buy colored pencils and paint for 15, do you see how that could be problematic and could potentially make The Boss unhappy? If a teacher has 21 students and needs 21 sets of paintbrushes and colored pencils because it is a pathway to help students understand the material to get them to the next stage of the leadership academy successfully, then that should not be up for debate.

I was a reluctant case. I was passing by through the K-12 system because I had to deal with what I was given. In hindsight, I had a few experiences being the student that “couldn’t paint” because there weren’t enough resources. However, I had a lot of outside practice thanks to my dad making my sisters and me the Jackson 5 of Education growing up. He made us work on our skills and passions for what felt like an additional 1,000 hours throughout the school year. I’m sure as a parent, he understood that there were many cracks in the K-12 system, but probably felt that there was no sense in fighting a system that was broken and probably wasn’t going to be repaired anytime soon.

Our summers were not typical summers. It was the Jackson 5 Academy of Learning, which I appreciate now but hated back then. This is why McCleary is such a big deal. It could be the start to fixing the system. I was constantly writing, reading, and writing some more to the point where I was confident enough to give birth to a dream and pursue it, because I had the perspective and knowledge that I could succeed. In fact, it became quite ridiculous how much I started writing over the years. In college, the only kind of partying I really did was in the UW’s Suzzallo Library with the Dewey Decimal System or in my Ballard studio with my laptop and Google docs.

When it came to applying to one of the most prestigious undergraduate scholarships in the country (Gates Millennium), I didn’t consider the odds that were against me. Instead, I felt confident enough in my ability to write because that’s all they were asking me and every other student in the country to do, just write. So I went to town because at this point, it wasn’t about any challenge or obstacle in front of me, but it came down to skill, experience and ability. I also knew my rights that Thomas Jefferson outlined for all individuals in the Declaration of Independence. So for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, I applied to that scholarship.

I’ve always believed that someday I could be a great writer and reporter. If I wanted to be on the New York Times Best Seller list or even be skilled enough to work at CNN, it had to start with a confident and disciplined belief. That’s what my dad, Michael, taught me. As I grew older, I recognized that I couldn’t dream and hold on to doubt at the same time. One was a heavy load and the other always made me feel like Alice in Wonderland.

McCleary questions whether students have the confidence to pursue their wildest dreams. Do they feel capable? If not, how can that change? I see my mentors and colleagues at LEV really trying to figure that out.

When I received the Welcome to the GMS Family packet, I felt as if I could take on the world and nothing was out of my reach. Not only did it guarantee me a free undergraduate education but a free education through earning my doctorate. One of my best friends from Colorado is also a Gates scholar with a compelling story and an astounding amount of what I like to call Alice in Wonderland Confidence, as well. Her name is Michael and when I met her, I didn’t feel crazy that my dreams seemed to go far beyond the stars or like I was stuck in some kind of Wonderland.

On the phone one day, I asked her what she wanted to do as a career and what her dreams were. She told me that she wanted to work for NASA. I will never forget that moment. I was looking for the Caesar croutons in aisle 4 at QFC and I remember stopping in my tracks, unsure if I heard her correctly because it was such a confident response. Her dream job was to be an astronaut. This is a true story. People would always tell her that she had a better chance of becoming president of the U.S than becoming an astronaut for NASA. Nelson Mandela had a great point –education is the fuel that drives a student to believe in the possibility of the things they may see as impossible.

Does the current K-12 system allow students to believe in the possibility of a great future?  I imagine McCleary as the hope and challenge to the impossible that students may feel. I imagine it giving students the same Alice in Wonderland confidence that Michael and I had in order to go after our dreams and challenge the status quo of our backgrounds. I imagine McCleary being the engine that fuels the confidence for many other students to dream of being great writers, reporters, and astronauts.

I believe that McCleary could give birth to a new system of belief for every student. When considering McCleary, I think a lot of people involved in the issue are asking, do we need more arts and leadership programs? Better use of testing and more conversations? I’ll be reaching out and sharing their perspective and experiences, as well. The debate over how the 1,000 hours of instruction in all grade levels will be supported and spent is heating up, so stay tuned – it’s interesting business that you won’t want to miss.

 

Read MyKaila’s first post, Following McCleary

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