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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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Korsmo’s Weekly Roundup: It’s Halftime

Chris Korsmo

Well Folks,

If the legislative session were the Super Bowl, Lady Gaga would be pretending to drop through a hole in the Capitol roof – it’s halftime! Sort of. Whatever time it is, you can always catch up on the action with our bill tracker. You might also check out our podcast series, including the newest one with Senator Hans Zeiger, Chair of the Senate Early Learning and K-12 Education Committee. Let’s take a look at how things are going.

Progress: That wind storm that rocked the western half of Washington may have been caused by the collective exhale of school district officials upon the news that the legislature passed an extension of the so-called Levy Cliff. With expanded levy capacity set to expire at the end of the year and levies to drop, districts were scrambling to figure out how to avoid sending out pink slips to staff. Now the legislature can settle in to resolve the rest of the K-12 funding situation – including a reprisal of sorts of the McCleary task force, an 8-member group tasked with drawing up a final plan. While much of the discussion so far has focused on the State’s obligation under the McCleary ruling, there’s been good movement in thinking about how to get more resources to kids who need more – how to ensure that money allocated to close gaps and accelerate results for struggling students. We aren’t the only state trying to unleash the potential that this moment holds. However we go about it, we’d like to see more of this.  And this.

Regress: Even as the Legislature buckles down on the funding issues, we can feel the slow shifting of the ground – ground we thought we’d already covered – underneath us. Bills to reduce graduation requirements and undo the State Board of Education continue to be debated. In case you missed it, the Washington Round Table issued a report showing both the heightened expectations for our workforce of tomorrow and the underwhelming way in which we prepare our kids for those opportunities. Backward is how you get out of a driveway. Not how progress is made.

Recess:

  • Turns out parents really can be influential.
  • That hour of sleep you’re about to lose this weekend? It’s not good for you.
  • Principals, the oft ignored solution…
  • Purple goes the way of analog. Legislative and Congressional districts aren’t the only places where politics are undivided.
  • There’s an algorithm for that.

That’s all for now, kids! I’ve got to get my hands mani on before the PTA auction tonight. Can’t raise a paddle with claws like this, now can we? As always, thank you for all you do on behalf of our kids! And keep it up! Halfway isn’t all the way, but it’s a good start.

Chris

 

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Posted in: Closing the Gaps, Funding, Legislative session, Podcast, Weekly Roundup

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Activist of the Month: Sameth Mell

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 March: Sameth Mell. Read about his experience as a strong advocate for education, housing, and immigrant communities.

League of Education Voters March Activist of the Month Sameth Mell

March Activist of the Month Sameth Mell

Sameth Mell is an active leader with the Coalition of Immigrants, Refugees & Communities of Color (CIRCC), serving on the leadership and advocacy committees. He works for the Mount Baker Housing Association as the Outreach & Resident Services Manager, helping residents access needed services and programs, and helping them to engage in their community. He is also responsible for connecting the agency at large to community based organizations and public officials, and works on legislative materials. He is a community activist extraordinaire on behalf of the Cambodian community and many social justice issues that the community faces.

Sameth supported the Campaign for Student Success (C4SS) by adopting its three principles of funding and fairness, talent, and accountability as part of CIRCC’s advocacy agenda for this year, along with other priorities that focus on housing development for communities in South Seattle, opposition to building a new youth jail, and ending fines for formerly incarcerated people that often prevent them from being able to support themselves.

After he put together CIRCC’s advocacy agenda, Sameth then scheduled C4SS group meetings with four Seattle City Council members to date, and seven state legislators. As a small group, C4SS met with council members Burgess, Johnson, Herbold and Harrell. Each time, C4SS had thoughtful conversations with the council member about the priorities on our advocacy agenda, and C4SS has asked the council member to sign onto the Campaign for Student Success. Of the four, one has signed on so far. Sameth is now working on setting up more appointments with the remaining Seattle City Council members.

Sameth was born in a refugee camp in Thailand after his parents fled the Khmer Rouge genocide in Cambodia. After his father died in the camp, his mother signed up to relocate him and his three siblings to the United States in 1985.

Living in poverty in mid-1980s Seattle, Sameth wondered why he was transferred from High Point Elementary School near his home and bused to Lafayette Elementary seven miles away. He didn’t understand the policies then.

Sameth became involved in Asian Counseling and Referral Service’s APIRA (Asian Pacific Islander Rising Above) program in his teen years, and started to recognize his Khmer identity as being important to him. He began working on identity politics, recognizing racism and oppression and addressing more of that as he grew older. Sameth says, “I saw organizing as a way to effect change and create equity for my community members.”

In addition to C4SS, Sameth is working with the Cambodian-American Community Council of Washington State to create scholarships. They have strong advocates from the education sector working on the education subcommittee, particularly around mentorship to help students continue to higher education. He hopes to have conversations with elected officials about helping support Cambodian-Americans attain degrees and certificates, and share stories about the Khmer Rouge genocide.

When Sameth went to high school, there were only two paragraphs about the Khmer Rouge genocide in his history books. He would like to see an education mechanism to educate the general public about the genocide so that his community can take pride in overcoming that, and draw attention to its implications in today’s political climate. He says, “Refugees don’t come to America because they just want a better life. My mother never asked to be here. We had no choice but to survive.”

Sameth says all the issues he works on intersect. In addition to C4SS, he is supporting the creation of a Filipino Community Center, construction of the Mount Baker Gateway Project to build 250 affordable housing units in Southeast Seattle, and the Model Toxics Control Act (MTCA). He says, “We’re rewriting the narrative – ecology equals affordable housing. If we want to build on a space contaminated by solvents, we need to get MTCA funds to make that happen.”

His overall plan is create spaces where people can live, celebrate their cultures, and have access to quality education. After all, Sameth says, “We have along Rainier the most ethnically diverse neighborhood in the country.”

Posted in: Activist of the Month, Advocacy and Activism, Blog, Closing the Gaps, Funding

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Resources from the 2017 Parent & Community Training

League of Education Voters 2017 Puget Sound Activist TrainingThank you to everyone who attended LEV’s 7th Annual Parent & Community Training!

Here are presentations from the breakout workshops:

Update – School Discipline

Student Weighted Formula

Summer Splash Reading Literacy Program

Tips and Resources for Students with Special Needs

 

Education Advocacy for Black Students - League of Education Voters

From the keynote panel on Education Advocacy for Black Students: “We’ve had the research that tells us how to engage students of color and help them succeed. We just need to put it into practice.”

Posted in: Advocacy and Activism, Closing the Gaps, Events, Funding, Legislative session, School Discipline

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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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Korsmo’s Weekly Roundup: Funding Plans Aplenty

Chris Korsmo

A big hello dedicated readers, it’s that time again. On Sunday two teams will line up and go at it for a championship. Yes! It’s Puppy Bowl XIII!!! The annual festival of cuteness featuring puppies “playing football.” And as if your heart couldn’t take any more, not one single little drop, they’re all – ALL! – up for adoption. OMG Becky look at that pup! This year’s event will feature special needs puppies – quick, someone tell Betsy DeVos! – including the ironically named “Lucky,” who has three legs. So if you grow tired of Super Bowl ads, or looking at the Patriots Coach who shall not be named, you have alternatives.

And now, the news:

The aforementioned Secretary of Ed nominee, Betsy DeVos, lost two key republican votes this week when Senators Murkowski (AK) and Collins (ME) both announced they would vote against her confirmation – despite voting to pass the confirmation out of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP). Her support for vouchers and her lack of experience with public schools were of critical concern to both senators. She also displayed a surprising lack of knowledge about federal laws on special education. With Murkowski and Collins in the “no” column, the vote count currently stands at a tie – one that will undoubtedly be broken by Vice President Pence in what would be an unprecedented tie breaker for a cabinet position. It looks like the vote may take place on Monday.

Closer to home, both the House and Senate now have education proposals, as does Governor Inslee. You can find a comparison of the plans here. After a hearing on Monday, the Senate’s already voted theirs over to the House (albeit along party lines). The Senate’s plan that was made public just as we went to hit “send” last week includes changes to the way we budget money, based on students rather than staff, makes big changes to the levy system and tweaks the state’s accountability system.

The House proposal invests more resources in programs that provide supports and interventions for kids including the Learning Assistance Program (LAP), the Transitional Bilingual Instructional Program (TBIP), and Career and Technical Education (CTE). The House also picks up the cost for compensation – a requirement of the Supreme Court ruling – and invests money in professional development for our educational workforce. The funds would flow in a manner similar to how they flow now, without the same guidelines that Senate Republicans put forward in their bill.

Superintendent Reykdal did double duty, issuing a statement and making an appearance at the Senate hearing. You can find him at the 50-minute mark of the hearing. You can also find Superintendent Reykdal here, in Podcast form. And just because I know everybody loves a treasure hunt, you can find all the education bill news here, on our bill tracker.

Other Ed News:

Other news that made the news this week:

  • I’ve lost socks. Once I even lost my car in the airport parking garage. But a Bobcat? Or an entire continent?
  • Here’s a question I’ve asked many time.
  • It’s not if, but what, the TOTUS will tweet about this Super Bowl ad.
  • Rejoice brain science nerds. Not one, but two pieces to nourish your soul. Er. Brain.

Well, kids, that’s it for this week. And heck, it should be more than enough to see you through. Next week we will see further action on the education plans introduced in both chambers, we’ll hear about the importance of fully funding the State Need Grant, and someone famous will undoubtedly show us their baby bump. Good times.

Have a great weekend! And as always, thanks for all you do for Washington’s kids.

Chris

 

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Posted in: Blog, Career Technical Education, Charter Schools, Closing the Gaps, Funding, Higher Education, Legislative session, Podcast, School Discipline, Side-by-Side Comparisons, Weekly Roundup

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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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Student Voice: Why Every Student Deserves a Quality Education (Video)

League of Education Voters intern MyKaila Young asks students at the University of Washington to share their education journey, what they learned along the way, and why it is important for every student to receive a quality education.

In McCleary v. State of Washington, the Washington Supreme Court ruled that because the state government is not providing sufficient education funding, it is violating the state’s constitution. Further, the Court found that inadequate funding from the state is leading to inequalities and disparities between wealthy and poor school districts, because some districts are only able to raise a fraction of the money through local levies as other districts, despite having a higher local levy tax rate.

The Court has ordered the state to address this issue by increasing education funding and reducing reliance on local levies to pay for teacher salaries and other basic education essentials. Estimates say that complying with the Court’s decision will require the state to spend an additional 1.5 – 2 billion dollars more per year on public education.

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

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