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Korsmo’s Weekly Roundup: March Madness

Chris Korsmo

It’s that time – March Madness culminates in the crowning of a champ. Go Dawgs!

The Zags’ road to a championship notwithstanding, then there were three. State budgets that is. A week after the Senate put forward their $43 billion spending plan, the House has issued their $44.9 B budget. The plans differ in a couple of key ways: the obvious difference in size and how to pay for things. With many expecting legislative overtime, the path to agreement is almost always compromise, something that did not go unnoticed by OSPI chief Chris Reykdal. One thing is for sure, our kids need a resolution that helps them succeed. And that doesn’t mean cutting back on out of school programs and supports like the POTUS’ “skinny” budget does. I wonder if the skinny budget isn’t just “hangry.”

One thing not included in the House budget: alternatives to the state exams currently required to graduate. That’s because the House removes the requirement for the tests – and therefore their alternatives. I think you know how I feel. Others agree.

In other news:

  • Changes to the FAFSA – financial aid forms for college – are making life difficult for some.
  • Brookings breaks down the racial disparities in discipline.
  • What do college and preschool have in common? It’s the Benjamins.
  • I think this is kind of harsh. But then I’m not a psychologist.

Before we go, I want to send a huge thank you to all who joined us for the LEV breakfast yesterday. The messages of hope and love for their work came through loud and clear from Teachers of the Year Kendra Yamamoto and Elizabeth Loftus! Many thanks to them for their wonderful insights – and for their leadership in their regions.

And as always, many thanks to you for the work you do to support Washington’s kids!

Chris

 

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Posted in: Blog, Career and College Ready Diploma, Early Learning, Funding, Higher Education, School Discipline, Weekly Roundup

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Korsmo’s Weekly Roundup: There’s Also a Price When We Don’t Pay

Chris Korsmo

Happy Friday to you, Friends!

If you’re playing along at home, we are two weeks past the midway point of the legislative session. You can keep score here. Let’s dive right in.

If You Spend it They Will Come: If it’s true what Oscar Wilde (and with slight revisions, P.T. Barnum) said, “the only thing worse than being talked about is not being talked about,” then Senate Republicans should feel great about their budget coverage. You cannot swing a dirty sweat sock in this town without breathless headlines and clever turns of phrase. With a $1.8 billion increase to K-12 education, Senate Republicans have said they are fully funding “basic education,” the point of the McCleary decision and subsequent rulings by the Supreme Court. The budget gives further legs to the Senate’s education plan released earlier this session with levy reform playing a leading role in the “how to pay for it” discussion. We can all agree that there’s also a price when we don’t pay…

This opening budget salvo did come at a price to higher education, early learning, housing and food assistance – cuts we hope are restored (and then some) when final negotiation are under way. And at the time of this writing it looks like Republican senators are open to those conversations. With the Senate budget out, we expect the House to put their plan forward next week. Both chambers would do well to invite this journalist to the negotiating party.

Rigorous Rigor: Last week I had a little soapbox moment about the attempts to roll back high school graduation requirements. This week, there’s more evidence that raising expectations (and supports) raises outcomes. Sometimes you gotta ask yourself whether it’s funny when you’re the butt of the joke.

De Minimizing the De Minimis: You may have noticed the Supreme Court Nominee Neil Gorsuch was engaged in multiple rounds of Senate confirmation hearings this week. A funny thing happened on the way to the marble arch. The U.S. Supreme Court – they of the even numbered variety for over a year now – managed a unanimous decision. On special education. Overturning a case from the 10th Circuit from which Gorsuch hails. I’m not one who typically exalts the writings of Chief Justice Roberts, but do not miss this:

“When all is said and done, a student offered an educational program providing ‘merely more than de minimis’ progress from year to year can hardly be said to have been offered an education at all,” wrote Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr., who wrote the 16-page opinion. “For children with disabilities, receiving instruction that aims so low would be tantamount to ‘sitting idly… awaiting the time when they were old enough to “drop out.” ’ ”

Oh, SNAP!

Lovely, Lively Reads:

As always, thank you for all you do on behalf of our kids.

Chris

 

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

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Chris Korsmo: My Ed Path

Chris Korsmo

When I reflect back on my education, it becomes clear pretty quickly that there was not one big “aha” moment. I didn’t just wake up one morning and was suddenly enlightened about everything on the face of the earth. And we haven’t yet figured out how to download information directly into our brains, like Carrie Anne Moss suddenly learning how to fly that helicopter. Everything I learned built on what I had learned previously. Graduation requirements at my high school were aligned to college-going. While rigorous, those requirements allowed for the arts. Seven years of marching band made me who I am today. All the stories about band camp are true.

This is why our vision at the League of Education Voters is for every student in Washington state to have access to an excellent public education – from early learning through higher education – that provides the opportunity for success. And this is why LEV is a proud member of the Cradle Through College Coalition.

To that end, during the 2017 legislative session, LEV is advocating for:

  • Additional funding for increased access and participation in high-quality early learning programs across the state
  • A system that attracts, retains, and supports qualified and effective educators, which includes teachers, para-educators and principals, while addressing needs for equitable access to quality instruction
  • Programs and funding targeted toward students who need it most, providing both academic and non-academic supports for students to improve outcomes and make progress in closing the opportunity and achievement gaps
  • An accountability system that provides transparency for families on school budgets and student outcomes, measures student and school success meaningfully, and provides effective state- and district-level supports for struggling schools
  • Additional funding to serve all students eligible for the State Need Grant

Here’s what we know about our kids: They all have assets. Every one of them has talent. They are not widgets. They want to know that what they’re learning has meaning. And they want you to know their names. For all the difficulty we ascribe to changing education policy, it’s really pretty simple:

  • Foundational skills that transfer with them to careers
  • Access to information about possible career choices
  • Individualization
  • Applied learning or relevance
  • And adults who care about them

Speaking of caring adults, none of my success would have been possible without great teachers. Research consistently shows that a great teacher has the single biggest impact on whether a student will succeed. I know this from personal experience, and I thought you might appreciate these photos from my education path:

League of Education Voters CEO Chris Korsmo's education path

Spring Day at Beloit College was a huge day of fun. There were no classes, and air band contests were the order of the day. Guess which band we were and who I was? I believe the year was 1983. I’m holding a toilet brush, in case you’re curious. For the record, the brush was brand-new.

I couldn’t have made it to Beloit without support from my favorite teacher, Sue Remley. I had her twice for math in high school and she took me under her wing. I could tell she was paying attention, which is why I did not want to let her down.

Her expectation for me was a motivating factor in applying to and going to college, because she let me know when the SATs and ACTs were. She even asked me who I was sending them to. She had 150 kids a day, in six or seven classes. And she knew everybody. I wasn’t the only person she was talking to. I wasn’t the super special kid. Everybody was super special. And that was cool.

Wouldn’t it be great if every student had a story about a favorite teacher, and every student had access to great teachers from early learning through higher education to help them along their education path? Call your legislators and encourage them to support the full education continuum at 1-800-562-6000. If you need help finding your legislators, just click here.

 

#MyEdPath

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

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Korsmo’s Weekly Roundup: Sunny Skies for Now

Chris Korsmo

You ever play those meeting “icebreaker” games where you have to indicate which tree you’d be, or what animal you were in a past life? If the legislature were a condiment, what would it be? My vote this week is ghost pepper sauce. Discuss.

Money, Money, Money, Money. Money! When last we met we shared the news that the legislature had averted multiple local education funding crises by passing an extension of the levy cliff. This was welcome news for many, even as attention quickly turned to the bigger issue, McCleary. The good news? The economic forecast is sunny. The bad news? Well, for now, there really isn’t any. Yes, the two sides might bicker from time to time and we don’t yet have a final plan to fund, but we will. Our aim is to make sure more of the resources intended for kids who need something more or different – see gaps diatribe below – actually get those resources. Even while we build a compensation system that our education professionals find both fair and energizing.

Next week we’ll get our first look at how the Senate will address education funding when they release their budget. Expect the House version the week after. Here’s how things stack up so far.

Testing Testing: The state’s long love affair with the testing debate will air in all its glory next week when Senate Education takes up HB 1046, the House bill that “delinks” passing the state’s math, English language arts and science exams from high school graduation. Superintendent Reykdal was asked about it recently and spoke in support of removing the requirements. We’ve long taken a different position, that delinking the exams makes it difficult to know whether they’re taken seriously. As the only consistent statewide measures of proficiency, we need good – comparable – data that tells us how our students are doing and importantly, how students fare by groups. We’ve long said we can’t close gaps we can’t see. Between the national moves to reduce federal oversight – or even expectations – and the state wanting to no longer (accurately) capture this information, our kids caught in the opportunity and achievement gaps will be invisible. And, sadly, kids who think they’re college material because they can pass the high school courses that meet the graduation requirements will often find out that they are in fact, NOT ready for prime time. For a state with the kind of student academic performance we have – only 31% of our kids get a degree or certificate from a two- or four-year college – this is a major step backward. Proponents will say that kids are the only ones being held accountable for proficiency – the graduation requirements are high stakes exit exams. It’s true our system is not a bastion of accountability. But eliminating the little bit that we have will only hide the gaps, mislead our kids, and drive our degree completion rates in the wrong direction. (How do I really feel?)

While we’re talking about money, the President’s budget was released this week and it is not a good time to be poor, or a first-generation college student, or a kid in after school programs. The good news here is that a President’s budget is typically just a conversation starter. And, by the looks of it, everybody’s talking.

Light Reading:

  • Sometimes a walk in the woods really pays
  • Speaking of gems, there’s one right in our backyard.
  • More thinking on the causes and impacts of the achievement gap.

As always, thank you for all you do on behalf of our kids. Happy Saint Paddy’s Day!

Chris

 

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Posted in: Blog, Career and College Ready Diploma, Closing the Gaps, Funding, Legislative session, Weekly Roundup

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Community Support for English Language Learners

By Joyce Yee, LEV Community Organizer

Vietnamese Friendship Association - League of Education VotersThe Vietnamese Friendship Association (VFA) offers after school and Saturday school programs to all English Language Learner (ELL) students who attend the Seattle World School in the Seattle school district.

Some unique challenges that ELL students face to being successful and self-sufficient are that their families face language barriers, poverty and discrimination, and are unable to help them be successful at school. ELL students tend to be one or more years behind their native English speaking peers, and only half graduate from high school, compared to the state average of 80%.

ELL students often come to the U.S. with little formal education as teens, and only have a few years to learn English and finish high school successfully. VFA served 239 students in their youth programs, ages 11 – 20: 98% were low-income; 46% were female and 54% male; 40% from Africa, 32% Asia, 26% South America, 2% Europe and the Middle East. Youth who participated in VFA’s programs achieved the equivalent of half a grade higher in math and reading by the end of the school year, compared to their peers. 78% of youth strengthened skills and assets that support positive social development.

VFA works in partnership with the Seattle World School to connect students to their programs through recruitment on their end and referrals by staff at the school. The school offers office and classroom space for VFA to offer after-school programs, plus staff referrals.

VFA offers after school and Saturday programming through strong partnerships with community based organizations including Coyote Central, Refugee Women’s Alliance, Jack Straw, Bike Works, and Neighborhood House. The other organizations provide programming, and VFA offers its expertise on how to work effectively with ELL students and families. In many of their programs, components are built in to offer both students and their parents/guardians learning opportunities.

VFA’s after-school programs include academic support, enrichment classes and job readiness. They offer academic support through their English/Homework help group and one-on-one tutoring. Enrichment classes include culinary, woodworking, and music. Jack Straw’s Guitar class meets twice a week to work on basic guitar skills. Students can also do service learning; they are assigned to teams that identify a community need that they would like to work on.

The Youth Job Readiness Training program teaches students skills such as resume preparation, interviewing, how to handle workplace conflicts, plus internship opportunities. It is offered to 20 students between 15 and 20 years old. While students learn about academics and career preparation, parents learn skills to support their students in being successful. A family engagement coordinator teaches parents how to navigate K-12 school systems and how to seek financial aid for their children to attend college. VFA holds regular family engagement meetings as part of the Job Readiness program for students only, guardians only, and also offers meetings that bring together both students and guardians.

The Saturday school focus is being revised to offer academic and enrichment activities. Academics include English 101 with content on math, reading, healthy relationships, and test prep for the World Language test so that ELL students can take the language proficiency test and earn elective credits for their language ability. The healthy relationship section teaches both students and parents through role playing how both can understand each other better, such as the challenges facing bilingual students versus parent expectations for them. A culinary series is also offered concurrently, where participants learn culinary skills through meal prep, cooking, and serving meals to Saturday school attendees. While students are learning, their parent or other adults in the household can take classes in English as a second language, and learn computer skills.

Over time, as families and their students get to know VFA through activities, they build a strong sense of community with each other. Parents have offered to prepare food for their group meetings for parents/guardians, and students who have completed the Saturday classes come back to volunteer.

Shouldn’t programs like the VFA’s be part of basic education?

#BeyondBasic

 

Read LEV’s blog post on Student Supports, an Integral Component of Basic Education

Posted in: Blog, Career and College Ready Diploma, Closing the Gaps, Funding

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LEV Interviews State Superintendent Chris Reykdal About His First 100 Days

OSPI Chris Reykdal - League of Education VotersLeague of Education Voters Communications Director Arik Korman sat down with Superintendent of Public Instruction Chris Reykdal to discuss the K-12 education funding plans on the table, how to close the opportunity and achievement gaps, and how to create a statewide system of career technical education.

 

Listen here:


 

Listen to Governor Jay Inslee talk about his 2017 state budget

Listen to Senator Christine Rolfes talk about the Education Funding Task Force

Listen to Rep. Ruth Kagi talk about the Governor’s Blue Ribbon Commission on Children and Families

Listen to Washington state Teachers of the Year talk about teaching philosophy, classroom accomplishments and education priorities

Posted in: Career and College Ready Diploma, Career Technical Education, Closing the Gaps, ESSA, Funding, Higher Education, Legislative session, Podcast

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Korsmo’s Weekly Roundup: We’ve Made Progress on Education Funding

Chris Korsmo

Well, that didn’t take long.

If you like your politics the same way you like your food – not to touch under any circumstances – then this was your week. Even as we’re going to press, the Senate Democrats are pursuing a floor takeover through parliamentary procedures. The podium grab is possible because the Senate Republicans are down a few men – you may have heard that the Senator Dansel has moved on to the Department of Agriculture and Senator Erickson is advising the EPA (apparently, he won’t be publishing studies on the website, or blogging about the effects of global warming). Dansel has left office, leaving an open seat, while Erickson is holding down two jobs for the time being and racking up frequent flyer miles. Should they prevail and are actually able to take action on the floor, the Senate Dems are looking to pass the levy cliff extension bill – a measure that passed the House earlier this week. The bill was also put on the Senate Ways and Means calendar for this coming Monday – a show of good faith or a pre-emptive maneuver to blunt the necessity of the take over? Oh, cynics. Stop it. (Little known fact about how I think about the word pre-emptive: think Carrie Underwood)

Meanwhile, progress is being made. Earlier this afternoon, Senate Republicans unveiled their education plan. The proposal could be heard early next week and includes a change to the way we allocate funds – from a focus on salaries and staffing to a student-centered approach – and doubles the resources into Career and Technical Education, among other things. There’s much to appreciate in this plan, which includes a bump in pay for starting teachers. You can find a side-by-side of the Senate proposal with Governor Inslee’s on our website here.  Which, by the way is where you can find our bill tracker.

Theme of the week: there are quite a few bills that either change, eliminate or de-link our assessment requirements for high school graduation. Coupled with moves to reduce the high school graduation requirements, it raises concerns that we’re watering down our preparation and expectation of our kids at exactly the wrong time.

In other news:

Have a wonderful weekend. And happy Lunar New Year. Thanks for all you do for Washington’s kids.

Chris

Posted in: Blog, Career and College Ready Diploma, Career Technical Education, Funding, Legislative session, Side-by-Side Comparisons, Weekly Roundup

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Rethinking Our Education System

By the LEV Policy Team

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

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

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

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

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

#BeyondBasic

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

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

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Flexibility in exchange for accountability at Kent’s iGrad Academy

iGrad Academy Principal Carol Cleveland

iGrad Academy Principal Carol Cleveland

Kent School District’s iGrad Academy is a program unlike any other in the district. Comprised of six pathways, students choose from a range of opportunities.  They can earn a high school diploma or two-year AA degree as iGrad fosters unique plans for individual students that did not find educational success at their previous school. iGrad offers what Principal Carol Cleveland calls a 1418 program, which follows a nontraditional calendar year, nontraditional instructional hours, a lower teacher-to-student ratio, a lower counselor-to-student ratio, and commits to addressing the needs of the whole child.  These unique elements are what make iGrad one of a kind.

As a young girl, Principal Cleveland dreamed of becoming a doctor but education ran in the family. After substitute teaching in Georgia, she witnessed a lack of adequate attention given to students with special learning needs. These students were being directed down a path that would ultimately create a larger achievement gap. It was this experience that made her realize the education system needed her help.

Determined to influence educational policy, decision making, and progress for students like those with special needs, Cleveland began working tirelessly. In 2012, such determination brought her to her position today as the leader and principal of iGrad Academy.

As an advocate for specialized education systems, Cleveland is passionate about the iGrad program and curriculum. The basic principle of the program, she says, is to grant young learners and educators the flexibility to think and operate outside of the box to ensure that students are college, career, and life ready. Such a foundation enables all those who attend, and teach, to have more freedom. The teachers at iGrad all believe that students can learn and experience academic, social, and personal success. Common belief in individual potential creates a strong bond between educator and student and contributes to the success of the program.

At iGrad, relationships are everything. Principal Cleveland goes out of her way to get to know every single student. By setting up monthly meetings with students, Cleveland takes a hands-on approach as school leader. She hears directly from participants in the program about what is and is not working. For students to reach their goals, Cleveland values listening to what they want and what they need. As a result, iGrad has seen exponential educational growth.

After several years at iGrad and tracking the progress of the program and its students, Principal Cleveland is thinking about the future. By working to strengthen relationships between middle schools and high schools, businesses and colleges, Cleveland hopes to expand opportunities to teach students how to apply what they are learning in the classroom to the real world. Students gain greater insight and create more options for themselves when they learn from business professionals which skills and abilities are desirable in employees.

Unfortunately, funding remains a challenge for the program. In addition to statewide inadequacies in support for public education, Open Door programs have different accountability measures and that can directly impact funding.   Even though students don’t always show academic progress in accordance with state timelines, Principal Cleveland and her staff believe that every student can learn. Many students have been given the tools needed to move forward in their educational pursuit by attending iGrad and Cleveland hopes the community will continue to support her efforts to increase the number of success stories.

Carol Cleveland’s medical career never took flight but she is healing broken dreams and changes hundreds of lives every day. Through her dedication to closing the opportunity gap and her success as the leader of iGrad Academy, she has created a pathway to success for many young adults who have struggled to find their own way. The League of Education Voters celebrates this amazing woman and her stellar program.

Caring, innovative, supportive, flexible, and successful – shouldn’t Carol Cleveland’s approach be basic education?

iGrad Academy is grateful for the support students receive from community members.  If you are interested in making a donation, iGrad is always in need of the following items:

School Supplies:  paper, pencils, pens, pee-chee style folders, spiral single-subject notebooks

Metro Bus tickets / Orca Cards: Help students get to and from school

Graduation Items: Gowns, Caps, Tassels

Toiletry items: for males and females, all ethnicities

New undergarments: for males and females

Gift Cards for achievement prizes: Starbucks, Fred Meyer, Target, etc…

One time need:

Female and Male mannequin (to dress in caps and gowns for inspiration)

Young Adult Books:

Many iGrad students love to read and the Academy is working to build a library of young adult books for them. If you’re interested in making a donation, there are lists of suggested titles and authors below:

King County Library System Teen Booklist:

http://www.kcls.org/teens/booklists/bibliocommonsBookList.cfm?booklist_id=209620665

Alex Award for Young Adult Fiction:

http://www.ala.org/yalsa/alex-awards

Quick Picks for Reluctant Young Adult Readers:

http://www.ala.org/yalsa/quick-picks-reluctant-young-adult-readers

Other Specific Publishers:

Orca

Saddleback

Other Specific Authors:

Ellen Hopkins

Allison Van Diepen’s urban fiction

Other Specific Title:

Nickel Plated

If you prefer to donate cash:

If you prefer to donate cash, iGrad Academy has established a trust fund which is used to purchase items that will allow students to focus on their learning. In addition to the above items, the Trust Fund may purchase online access for a student without internet, required materials for a college class, or a change of clothing for a homeless student.  Please call 253.373.4723 to express interest.

#BeyondBasic

Posted in: Blog, Career and College Ready Diploma, Closing the Gaps

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