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Helping students who need it most benefits all

By Kelly Munn, League of Education Voters State Field Director

From The Olympian:

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

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

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Our State of Education: Superintendent Survey

By Angela Parker, League of Education Voters Policy Analyst

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

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

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

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

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

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

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Our State of Education: Principal Survey

By Angela Parker, League of Education Voters Policy Analyst

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

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

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

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

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

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Tools for Teachers to Help Our Kids with Trauma

By Arik Korman, League of Education Voters Communications Director

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

Dr. Nadine Burke Harris - League of Education Voters

Dr. Nadine Burke Harris

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

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

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Positive School Climate in Action at New Horizons High School

By Kelly Munn, League of Education Voters State Field Director

New Horizons Group Photo - League of Education VotersThere are schools all across this state that are making dreams come true for their students.

I had the opportunity to visit one of these schools.

New Horizons is an alternative school in Pasco. They serve juniors and seniors who are on a different journey towards graduation, perhaps a slower journey, perhaps a more thoughtful journey, perhaps more zig and zag, alternative.

The students come from all kinds of backgrounds, but what they have in common is resilience, life experiences that have matured them, and despite so many obstacles, they are determined to meet their life goals. This school is helping to get them there.

The staff surrounds the students with a sense of belonging, a sense that they contribute to their education community, that each of them matters.

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2018 Legislative Priority: Student Supports

By League of Education Voters Policy Team

Student Supports - League of Education VotersStudents learn most effectively when their school feels safe, inclusive, supportive, and respectful. (1)

Closing opportunity and achievement gaps and improving student outcomes relies on our ability to create positive school climates for every student.

Opportunity:

Creating positive school climates and providing student supports can mitigate the impact of trauma (2), mental health needs (3), and other non-academic factors that affect a student’s ability to engage in learning (4). Washington state has embarked upon some critical work to create positive school climates. The Educational Opportunity Gap Oversight and Accountability Committee (EOGOAC) spearheaded a number of reforms, most recently with the passage of HB 1541 that continued student discipline reform and created the Washington Integrated Student Supports Protocol (5). The state also convened a workgroup to develop benchmarks for Social-Emotional Learning (6) for district use. We can enhance these and other efforts to deliver services to students and enable districts and schools to create welcoming and supportive environments for every student.

Solution:

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Afterschool Is Essential for Millions of Students Nationwide Each Year

By Ruben Balderas
Guest Blogger

Ruben Balderas - League of Education VotersRuben is a senior at Walla Walla High School, and recently secured a job as a Walla Walla Public Schools afterschool tutor. Throughout his afterschool journey, Ruben has acquired a number of real-world skills, and has made many friends and professional contacts along the way.

Afterschool is very important to me for many different reasons. It has taught me many different things, including computer programs, videography and cinematography skills, communicating with other people. My program has also helped me develop different strategies around critical thinking, problem solving, analyzing, planning, brainstorming, time and stress management, and leadership. All of these skills learned in afterschool can also be used in a real-world work environment; for me, that would be something in the field of animation or concept art. In both of these fields, it is essential to be able to work and communicate within a team structure in order to produce the best content for the job.

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2018 Legislative Priority: Expanded Learning Opportunities

By League of Education Voters Policy Team

Expanded Learning Opportunities - League of Education VotersLow-income kids get the least exposure to family reading time, weekend day trips, preschool, summer camp, and after-school programming – adding up to a 6,000 hour learning gap by 6th grade.(1)

High-quality expanded learning opportunities, such as after-school and summer programs, correlate with decreased academic gaps, improved behavior and social-emotional skills, fewer school absences, and lower dropout for all student groups. (2) High-quality apprenticeships and internships for high schoolers help students connect their schooling to important workforce skills. (3)

The Washington Legislature made initial investments in the Expanded Learning Opportunities Quality Initiative, which provides professional development, technical assistance, and a quality measurement system to ensure that programs offered to Washington youth are high-quality and effective. An additional $2.25M investment to expand the ELO Quality Initiative can increase the number of programs able to participate by 330— and increase access to high-quality programs for more than 11,000 students across the state.

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South Shore Stories – Takeaways from Roses in Concrete Community School

League of Education Voters works with Seattle’s South Shore PreK-8 on preschool, social emotional learning, and student supports. This blog series focuses on how South Shore engages students who come from a background of trauma.

Justin Hendrickson, South Shore PK-8 Assistant Principal - League of Education Voters

Justin Hendrickson, South Shore PK-8 Assistant Principal

By Justin Hendrickson, South Shore PreK-8 Assistant Principal
Guest Blogger

“Don’t reinvent the wheel” is often a mantra heard when discussing education. At South Shore, we believe that this often holds true across the educational spectrum. Many times there are other schools that have thought of, or at least explored, solutions to challenges that our school community faces. At the end of last year, our leadership team began to think about changes for the upcoming school year; it’s never too soon to start planning.

Through the connection of one of our teachers, in May we were offered a chance to visit Roses in Concrete Community School, located in East Oakland. A team of teachers, families and administrators traveled to Oakland to visit this school in order to gain a better understanding of what they are doing right. Roses in Concrete is known for a strong social justice lens and serves as a model of how staff genuinely reflect the community it serves through strong and ongoing communication. This school was founded by Dr. Jeff Duncan-Andrade, a well-respected professor, teacher, and speaker focused on critical pedagogy in urban schools.

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Powerless to Powerful: Moving Washington State Schools Towards Excellence and Equity

Suzann Girtz, Ph.D., Associate Professor – Teacher Education, Gonzaga University - Powerless PowerfulBy Suzann Girtz, Ph.D., Associate Professor – Teacher Education, Gonzaga University
Guest Blogger

Imagine your school is in the bottom 5% of all Washington state schools for graduation. About one out of every two students will not graduate. And when people visit your school to question what’s happening, the students respond, “What do you expect?” They attribute the failures to themselves and maintain, “That’s just the way it is here.”

That is a quote from a student at Sunnyside High School several years ago. Its graduation rate hovered at 49%, students blamed themselves, teachers were exhausted, and everyone was working as hard as they could. It was difficult to envision this struggling school becoming a top performer in just a couple years – but it did. Significant change in a short time IS possible in our schools; we’ve experienced it.

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