League of Education Voters http://educationvoters.org Building a quality public education system from cradle to career. Fri, 30 Jan 2015 01:58:32 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Korsmo’s Weekly Roundup: January 23 http://educationvoters.org/2015/01/23/korsmos-weekly-roundup-january-23/ http://educationvoters.org/2015/01/23/korsmos-weekly-roundup-january-23/#comments Sat, 24 Jan 2015 00:00:11 +0000 http://educationvoters.org/?p=23740 Ok. Let’s get the obvious out of the way. My Packers are not going to the Super Bowl. You might think I’d like to just avoid the topic and move on—you’re right. But what I learned about conflict and loss a long time ago is that moving on without reflection doesn’t teach you anything. So, let’s learn something—and use sports metaphors!

What Happens Early Sets the Tone: I could have named this “seven is more than three,” but it doesn’t completely work here. (And it didn’t work Sunday either. First quarter. Fourth and goal from the one. This is the opportunity to define who you are and will be. It did.) It is fourth and goal for our three- and four-year-olds. Time to call the play, and it’s a no brainer—leave the field goal unit on the sideline and go all in.

Here’s why: New data from the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) highlight findings from the Washington Kindergarten Inventory of Developing Skills (or WaKids). The data show that in literacy, kids largely start kindergarten where they should—nearly 80 percent exhibit skills like rhyming, recognition and naming of up to 10 letters, and recall of familiar stories. But they also show that gaps already exist between ethnic and economic groupings—and overall math proficiency for everyone hovers just over 50 percent. This all but makes the case for high-quality early learning being an essential part of a strong start. This week, both chambers introduced the Early Start Act, which builds an integrated system of early learning and provides incentives for a diverse group of providers to improve the quality—and close gaps. Next week, the Senate Education Committee will hear the bill Monday while the House will take it up on Wednesday.

Win all Three Phases of the Game, You Win the Game: In football, this means offense, defense, and special teams. In education, we’ve kept all three phases separate for way too long. And all the huge fuss over K–12 notwithstanding, it’s a continuum.

The Separation is in the Preparation: Russell Wilson loves to say this. He’s not wrong. Whether we’re talking about the supports we provide for homeless kids, professional learning for teachers, offering college credit in high school, or free college tuition, preparation separates. Speaking of preparation, you can preparate yourself this weekend at our Parent and Community Training at Highline College. Governor Inslee will provide remarks and Senator Bruce Dammeier will also stop in.

It Ain’t Over ’til it’s Over: For me, football is over. But for Initiative 1351, the class-size initiative, the party is just getting started. Governor Inslee wants the Legislature to amend it. But with the large price tag dangling precipitously over their heads, a growing body in the Legislature wants to change the entire initiative process to prevent such costly—unfunded—mandates in the future.

The Rest:

Well, team, that’s it for this week. Use the seven days between now and next time to leave it all on the field. Separate by preparating. Deflate a ball or two. Win one for the Gipper. Just do it. Because sometimes you win. Sometimes you lose. Sometimes… it rains.

Thanks for all you do on behalf of Washington’s kids. We couldn’t do it without you.

Chris and Team LEV

Korsmo’s Weekly Roundup is emailed to subscribers weekly and posted on our blog on Fridays during the 2015 legislative session. Sign up to receive Korsmo’s Weekly Roundup via email.

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An early start to success http://educationvoters.org/2015/01/21/an-early-start-to-success/ http://educationvoters.org/2015/01/21/an-early-start-to-success/#comments Wed, 21 Jan 2015 22:03:31 +0000 http://educationvoters.org/?p=23732

Access to high-quality early education has been life changing for our daughter, Eva Rose.

A teacher helps her young student with work.That’s how Seattle parent Jessica Colinares describes her daughter’s experience in preschool. Eva’s success—thanks to her access to high-quality early learning—isn’t extraordinary; rather, it’s the norm.

Support has been growing for quality early childhood education throughout Washington state—and across the country.

Many studies show that children in high-quality early learning programs are more prepared for kindergarten, more likely to graduate high school, healthier, more likely to be employed, and report higher income. They are also less likely to repeat grades, be placed in special education, be involved in the juvenile justice system, and commit crimes as adults. High-quality early learning is one of the best ways to close the opportunity and achievement gaps, which are already present by the beginning of kindergarten. Much of high-quality early learning focuses on the social and emotional learning that is so vital throughout a child’s life.

Early learning benefits add up to savings for school districts, taxpayers, and the state. In some cases, school districts save approximately $3,700 for each low-income child or child with risk factors who receives early learning. There is an additional $1,000 of savings per child in costs outside of school like healthcare, drug prevention, and criminal justice.

Children furthest from opportunity who do not have access to high-quality early learning experiences are 40 percent more likely to repeat a grade, 29 percent more likely to drop out of school, 41 percent more likely to be placed in special education, 60 percent more likely to never attend college, 33 percent more likely to be arrested as a juvenile, and 42 percent more likely to be arrested for a violent crime, all of which require costly state resources.

In Washington, the Early Start Act, a bipartisan piece of legislation recently introduced in both the House of Representatives (HB 1491) and the Senate (SB 5452), would ensure that all children get the great start they need in life. In particular, the Early Start Act would:

  • Help parents find high-quality care and learning opportunities to suit their kids
  • Promote high-quality early learning and parent choice
  • Prepare more kids for kindergarten

In short, the Early Start Act has the potential to give all students the kind of start that Eva had, according to Jessica: “We can see the difference academically—she started kindergarten a reader, with a strong handle on numbers 1 to 100, and doing basic calculations like adding and subtracting. But just as important, she developed in preschool a confidence and love for school that fuels her curiosity and helps her thrive in kindergarten.”

Learn more about the importance of early childhood education through the Early Learning Action Alliance.

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Korsmo’s Weekly Roundup: January 16 http://educationvoters.org/2015/01/16/korsmos-weekly-roundup-january-16/ http://educationvoters.org/2015/01/16/korsmos-weekly-roundup-january-16/#comments Sat, 17 Jan 2015 00:00:35 +0000 http://educationvoters.org/?p=23720 It’s baaaaack. Just when you thought it was safe to go back into your inbox, here come your cheeky reflections on the news from Oly and beyond.

Much has happened since last we spoke. The Legislature is being held in contempt by the Supreme Court—pending meaningful investments in “basic education,” and a plan to implement those investments. The elections have colored Washington a shade more purple than blue, and an improving economy has Washington voters thinking that education is the issue of the day. Will that spell good news for those of us wanting to see smart investments in the education continuum? Will Early Learning be the new Netflix series? Will the cheese be mightier than the hawk?? These and other questions will resolve themselves over the next few months.

But first, a look at the big themes of the session. (You can track the details here, where we describe the bills of note and what’s going on with them.)

Necessary but not sufficient: With all due respect to the K–12 system, the growing consensus is that if we are really going to prepare students to be meaningful contributors to our democracy and society, a high school diploma isn’t enough. Our view is that “basic education” is a continuum beginning early on—pre-k at the latest—and extending into higher education. We are not alone.

You say you want a revolution: According to some, our tax system (Yes, that WAS the opaque reference to the Revolution. Bonus points for those of you still with me. There WILL be prizes at the end. I swear. Really.) is kinda outta whack. Some would say it’s the worst in the country. While Senate Republicans don’t want to go gently into that taxing night, taxes will be front and center.

Sharing is caring: The closely divided Legislature provides some unique opportunities for shared leadership. Bi-partisan leadership may feel like a legacy from the past, but if we are going to see results our kids need and the Court is demanding this session, policy leaders will have to reach across the aisle to get the job done.

Trends to watch out for: Testing, testing. Free college isn’t just the President’s “thing.” It’s our thing. Early Learning WILL be the new Netflix series.

Miscellany:

Well, kids, that’s it for this first week of the session. Join us again next week when I wax on about my Packers going to the Super Bowl. And the first time a bill gets “Roached.”

As always, thanks for all you do on behalf of Washington’s kids—however old they might be. We couldn’t do it without you.

Korsmo’s Weekly Roundup is emailed to subscribers weekly and posted on our blog on Fridays during the 2015 legislative session. Sign up to receive Korsmo’s Weekly Roundup via email.

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A Way Forward: We can and must do better for Washington’s students http://educationvoters.org/2015/01/12/a-way-forward-we-can-and-must-do-better-for-washingtons-students/ http://educationvoters.org/2015/01/12/a-way-forward-we-can-and-must-do-better-for-washingtons-students/#comments Mon, 12 Jan 2015 22:00:23 +0000 http://educationvoters.org/?p=23668 A child’s education should be a continuum with seamless transitions from early learning through postsecondary education. The League of Education Voters (LEV) is pleased to release its vision for an expanded definition of basic education.

Washington’s policymakers have spent much time, money, and intellectual capital trying to overhaul our state’s education funding system—multiple task forces, studies, work groups, legislative efforts—and yet, we lack a plan for ample, equitable, and stable funding. In addition, our definition of “basic education”—what this funding system is supposed to pay for—doesn’t go far enough to prepare our kids for college or career.

A Way Forward: We can and must do better for Washington's students. January 2015

A Way Forward

The Washington State Supreme Court found that the state was violating its constitutional obligation to amply fund basic education in the McCleary v. State of Washington funding case. Lawmakers were given a 2018 deadline to fix how we fund basic education. The passage of Initiative 1351 to lower K–12 class sizes statewide magnifies the intense pressure on the Legislature to determine a viable funding plan for public education. Though the 2018 deadline looms, the Court found the Legislature in “contempt of court” last fall, giving them until the end of the 2015 legislative session to make significant progress on a funding plan. While the funding issues are paramount to the Court, this time frame provides a unique opportunity to reflect on what our kids really need from our public education system to succeed.

While we have made progress in improving the K–12 system, we have not changed the way we think about what a basic education entails. A child’s education should be a continuum with seamless transitions. Our state’s approach to providing that education is hamstrung by silos, bureaucratic fights, politics, and battles pitting different parts of that child’s education against each other.

The League of Education Voters (LEV) endorsed the re-definition of basic education developed by our Legislature in 2009 (it includes smaller class size, full-day kindergarten, transportation, materials, and supplies) upon which McCleary is based, but we also advocated, based on our leadership and support for Initiatives 728 and 884, that the definition should include early learning and higher education.

A new definition of basic education must address one of the critical and more pernicious challenges we face statewide: a growing achievement gap between low-income kids, kids of color, and English Language Learners; and their white, more affluent counterparts. Too many kids, particularly low-income kids, arrive at kindergarten already behind. At the other end of the education spectrum, all data point to the need for a postsecondary degree or certificate in preparation for the jobs of today and tomorrow.

We know there is no single policy solution that will close the opportunity and achievement gaps for Washington students.

We believe the pathway to providing a high-quality public education for all students begins with identifying and funding what works.

For the League of Education Voters, this requires a new definition of basic education, which includes early learning, strategic investments in teacher compensation and professional learning, and at least two years of postsecondary education for each Washington student.

We can and must do better for Washington’s students.

A Way Forward: Executive Summary

A Way Forward: Executive Summary

LEV’s vision for an expanded definition of basic education is aspirational, yet achievable, and will spark change in our state’s investment in the public education system. This vision ensures all students in Washington have access to a high-quality public education required by our state’s Constitution.

Our vision is available to download in its entirety. An executive summary is also available.

Washington state has the people, resources, and innovative spirit to create the best public education system in the world, but it’s going to take tough decisions from each of us to make it a reality. During 2015, the League of Education Voters is engaging policymakers, community members, parents, and educators across the state to discuss our vision for a high-quality public education system from cradle to career.

We invite you to join us.



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This changes everything. http://educationvoters.org/2015/01/08/this-changes-everything/ http://educationvoters.org/2015/01/08/this-changes-everything/#comments Thu, 08 Jan 2015 22:00:02 +0000 http://educationvoters.org/?p=23451 Emma Margraf spoke at today’s State Board of Education meeting and submitted testimony similar to the blog post below.

By Emma Margraf

Last week Jane came in the house with a big envelope in her hand saying, “Mooooommmm….” in a hesitant voice. The envelope was from the college she wants to attend.

I told her that it might just be a mailing, because her application hadn’t been complete for very long. They have a rolling admissions process, so we didn’t know. I watched her open it and read the first few lines of the letter that came in the envelope and then handed it to me looking like she didn’t understand what was happening.

I read the first few lines—they started with, “Congratulations! It is my pleasure to offer you admission…”—and when she saw my face, Jane started jumping up and down.

Six years ago, every school official in Jane’s life would have said this was impossible, and we’ve been told not to hope for it ever since.

Jane has struggled with all of her grades and has never been able to pull up her math grades or test scores. She’s been told over and over again to go to junior college or to sign up for job training programs.

But that’s not what she wanted, and those options were not right for her.

I never took the approach of trying to dissuade Jane from her dreams. I recruited some amazing people to support her. I made a list of the requirements and put them on the wall. Jane went to SAT prep classes. Jane wrote her essay and asked five different people to read it and give her feedback. Jane and I practiced interview questions a number of times.

Fewer than two out of five foster kids graduate from high school in Washington—let alone go to college. Once you get to college, the government is happy to pay for quite a bit of public school costs. But there’s little support to get there.

The implication of the lack of support is that you should be sure that it’s worth it. You should be absolutely confident that you are worth investing in, and that if you aren’t totally sure, you shouldn’t waste people’s time and money. More teachers, social workers, and administrators than I can count have told me that Jane should go to community college for a few years to “get used to college” and to “prove she can do college-level work.” Now I reply that she got into college and that the college believes she can do college-level work.

Jane deserves the chance to finish college and qualify herself for something better than minimum wage and for something more substantial than what her parents have. She has earned the right to work for a life where she’ll have options. As her parent of the last six years, I fought for that. Now it’s time to celebrate the future and the fact that all things are possible.

Jane wrote a beautiful essay, secured letters of recommendation, nailed her interview, and passed the classes she needed to pass. She did that in spite of discouragement from many of the adults around her.

Jane is going to college. This changes everything.

Emma Margraf is a writer and a foster parent in Washington state. She writes mostly about foster parenting and nonprofit life, but she aspires to be a food and travel writer and to make the perfect grilled cheese. Read other blog posts Emma has written about foster parenting.

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Activist of the Month: Sharon Taubel http://educationvoters.org/2015/01/06/activist-of-the-month-sharon-taubel/ http://educationvoters.org/2015/01/06/activist-of-the-month-sharon-taubel/#comments Tue, 06 Jan 2015 17:00:51 +0000 http://educationvoters.org/?p=23412 Sharon TaubelAt the League of Education Voters (LEV), we recognize all of the hard work that you do toward improving public education across Washington state. We are pleased to announce our Activist of the Month for January: Sharon Taubel. Read more about Sharon’s work advocating for public education—especially when it comes to equity in education.

Sharon Taubel began volunteering in her daughter’s elementary school PTA years ago, and her volunteerism and advocacy continued from there.

Sharon is pretty straightforward about why she advocates for others: “I was not well-served by the education system.” But more than that, when Sharon observes what is simply “not right,” she can’t help but do something about it.

Sharon attended an Office of the Educational Ombuds’ Finding Your Voice training, co-hosted by LEV, a few years ago, and she says it was transformative.

As she became more involved in advocacy and learned more about how the system works through various organizations, Sharon says she began seeing the barriers caused by inequity, or the “-isms,” as she sometimes calls it. By that, Sharon means the inequity caused by systemic racism, by classism, by sexism, and so on.

Advocating on so many fronts and “a lot of listening” allowed Sharon to connect the dots between all of these issues that result in an inequitable system, and she believes that bias—conscious or not—stems from people who don’t put the time and effort into connecting all of those dots.

“For example, what it means to not have a computer,” Sharon says. She describes her daughter receiving school assignments that must be completed on the computer and that are due the next day. That might sound straightforward—unless you’re a student without easy access to a computer.

State Field Director Kelly Munn says that Sharon “raises a voice that often doesn’t get heard.” Kelly also says that Sharon “always pitches in.” Kelly gives the example of a recent PTA meeting, when Sharon volunteered to help parents park in a crowded lot—in the freezing rain. After standing outside in the cold and wet for hours, Sharon finally was able to go inside, and she received a standing ovation for doing what few others were willing to consider. “That’s how committed Sharon is,” Kelly says.

In addition to parking duty, Sharon worked on the simple majority campaign in 2010, fighting to defeat Tim Eyman’s I-1053. She also collected signatures for the public charter schools initiative in 2012, I-1240.

Sharon attributes her success as an advocate to her willingness to add her voice to the causes she believes in: “I’m not always right but I have the guts to speak up.”

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Celebrating our Q4 Donors http://educationvoters.org/2015/01/05/celebrating-our-q4-donors/ http://educationvoters.org/2015/01/05/celebrating-our-q4-donors/#comments Tue, 06 Jan 2015 00:31:52 +0000 http://educationvoters.org/?p=23436 October 1–December 31, 2014

Thank you!Donations are made to the League of Education Voters (LEV) and the League of Education Voters Foundation by individuals, groups, and businesses throughout the community. These generous donations from those who believe in high-quality public education allow us to ensure measurable progress toward LEV’s vision that every student in Washington state has access to an excellent public education that provides the opportunity for success.

Below are our donors from the fourth quarter of 2014, October 1–December 31. We regret any omissions or errors to the donor list. Please contact our Development Manager, Jackie Schultz, by emailing jackie@educationvoters.org or by calling 206.728.6448 with any questions or to correct any information.

Thank you to all of our donors for helping make 2014 a success!

Donor Names
James Berry Margaret Johnson Evelyne Rozner and Matt Griffin
Lisa Bialek Barbara Kelley Jackie Schultz
Jane and Watson Blair Kraft Foods Foundation State of Washington
Boeing Lisa and Ross Macfarlane The Knossos Foundation
Judy and Ward Bushnell Marian McDermott The Seattle Foundation
Kate Coxon Joseph Monda Kevin Washington
Leslie Decker Don Nielsen Thomas Weeks
James L. Fridley Raikes Foundation Elaine and Larry Woo
Nancy Hopkins Katherine and Robert Roseth
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Specializing in the impossible http://educationvoters.org/2014/12/18/specializing-in-the-impossible/ http://educationvoters.org/2014/12/18/specializing-in-the-impossible/#comments Thu, 18 Dec 2014 20:01:28 +0000 http://educationvoters.org/?p=23396 Highline Public Schools has been in the news over the last few years regarding its work on school discipline, and for good reason. The district’s out-of-school suspensions and expulsions have dropped precipitously since 2006, when the district began implementing positive behavioral interventions and supports, known as PBIS, in its schools.

And Highline Superintendent Susan Enfield has a bold goal—zero out-of-school suspensions (except those necessary for safety reasons) for her entire district by 2015.

She and Highline School Board Director Sue Goding presented at the Washington State School Directors’ Association (WSSDA) conference in late November about their district’ work transforming school discipline. They recently sat down with the League of Education Voters to talk about the district’s journey from traditional, punitive discipline to PBIS.

According to Sue, it all started in 2006, when a couple of elementary school counselors attended a school board meeting and told board members that they had begun implementing PBIS in their schools. Based on their presentation, the board decided to expand PBIS throughout the district.

During this implementation, the district learned a lot, and it was not enough to simply focus on PBIS, Sue says. “Every step of implementation showed us something else that needed to change.” As though it were a chain reaction, implementing PBIS demonstrated that the district needed to change its discipline policy. Next, an equity policy. Then, re-training school security guards so that their focus was less on security and more on safety.

Susan joined Highline Public Schools as superintendent in 2012. By that time, PBIS was well established in elementary schools, she says, but less so in secondary schools. Highline has been focusing on secondary school implementation and beefing up supports. This year, the district has a reengagement specialist in every middle and high school.

What they learned is that the vast majority of suspensions were due to student defiance. So, they eliminated defiance as a suspendable policy. “We’re not saying there shouldn’t be consequences for bad behavior—there should. But the consequence for a student’s defiance shouldn’t be his or her high school diploma. We need to turn tough moments into teachable moments,” Susan says.

And they have. In 2007–2008, Highline had 3,193 suspensions and expulsions. In 2013–2014—just 975.

But the work is just starting, according to Susan. The next step for the district after PBIS is restorative justice. In addition, this year is “going to be difficult,” Susan says. The students who still have discipline issues at this point are the ones who have serious problems and need more help than what the schools can provide. Susan believes this year is going to demonstrate that districts cannot do it alone and that they need more supports and wraparound services.

“I see this, ultimately, as a critical, high-level strategy to high school graduation. By connecting the dots between discipline, student supports, and academic success, we’re going to raise our graduation levels.” But to do that, Susan says, “We need to get bold.”

This work reminds Susan of Theodore Roethke’s quote: “What we need is more people who specialize in the impossible.”

To the League of Education Voters, it sounds like that quote describes the administrators and teachers at Highline Public Schools.

Highline School District Number of Suspensions and Expulsions Over Time

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Paving the way toward greater parent engagement http://educationvoters.org/2014/12/04/paving-the-way-toward-greater-parent-engagement/ http://educationvoters.org/2014/12/04/paving-the-way-toward-greater-parent-engagement/#comments Thu, 04 Dec 2014 18:00:05 +0000 http://educationvoters.org/?p=23334 Marta Burnet

Marta Burnet

By Marta Burnet

How can I help my child do better in school?

That’s a question many of us grapple with as parents—and one that was raised at a recent Spanish curriculum night offered at Apollo Elementary School in Renton. It’s a question that becomes even more daunting for parents who do not speak English.

Taking action to help your own children does not, however, need to be insurmountable. That’s why the Apollo PTA has spent the last year-plus finding ways to overcome barriers for these families and welcome their involvement in their children’s education.

As a part of our PTA goal of broadening family involvement, we devised three objectives:

  1. Increase native language (L1) materials available to non-native-English-speaking families.
  2. Make L1 resources about Apollo available.
  3. Engage families, so that we can answer questions, spread resources, and get feedback.

While Apollo students speak 16 languages at home, 63 percent of them speak Chinese, Spanish, or Vietnamese, so we chose to concentrate our efforts initially on those.

If parents cannot read English, then they are limited in their ability to support their children’s English literacy development. But many research studies provide strong evidence in favor of developing native language literacy skills, which then transfer into English literacy.

By increasing the L1 materials available in the library, the ELL instructor and teachers can make use of these materials and encourage students to take them home to use. The PTA granted $1150 to purchase 77 books in our three most common languages (Spanish, Mandarin Chinese, and Vietnamese). We also made Spanish books available through our online reading curriculum. Our intention is to continue to build our L1 library in future years.

Our second objective stemmed from our desire to help non-English-speaking families better understand our school system and the PTA. By translating key school and PTA documents, we created pathways toward greater engagement. Community and family engagement is a key component of improving school performance.

The PTA gave a $550 grant to translate the Apollo handbook into Spanish, and we recruited volunteers to translate the Apollo PTA mission and letters sent home to families into Chinese, Korean, Romanian, Spanish, and Vietnamese. We also located useful resources from state and education organizations in multiple languages that we linked on our website, and we set up Google Translate for our website. Teachers also reminded families about the translation service available for conversations with them. And finally, we distributed a survey to all Spanish-speaking families to learn how they feel about their relationship with Apollo and its PTA.

Our third objective has been particularly rewarding. Last year, we recruited volunteer Bilingual Ambassadors to call families, let them know about resources, answer questions, and identify needs and interests within these communities. This provided us with good information to lead to future steps for this year, including the recent inaugural Spanish curriculum night.

To get the word out about the curriculum night, we sent home flyers in Spanish and called all Spanish-speaking families to encourage them to attend. While we had no idea how many people would attend, we were thrilled to see about 75 people show up—about two-thirds of our Spanish-speaking families!

The PTA sponsored the dinner, the school gave away bilingual books, and we answered questions about the school and PTA. Then we took parents to the computer lab to show them how to use the Issaquah School District online portal for families so that they could register for conferences, get report cards, and find other information about their children’s education. Our principal was supportive and agreed to put a computer in the school office for future parental use and offer another Spanish-language computer class in the future in order to help families access our reading and math curriculum and anything else they might need to support their kids.

It was such a wonderful night. The parents really appreciated it and the kids were so proud to introduce their parents to teachers, the librarian, and the principal. I think we went a long way toward laying the groundwork for future engagement and involvement. By the end of the evening, parents were asking about volunteer opportunities and reading to their kids in Spanish—things we know can make a difference in their children’s academic success.

This entire project has really been a team effort on the part of the PTA and the school principal, and that teamwork was a key to its success. While it does take time, and in some cases, money, I am confident our work will make a difference and can be replicated elsewhere. If it helps even just one or two families become involved in their children’s education, I believe it was worth it.

Marta Burnet is Apollo PTA Co-President and Chair of the committee that conducted this work. She is also a PhD Candidate at the University of Washington in the College of Education’s Educational Leadership and Policy Studies program, where she focuses on state- and district-level policies that impact English Language Learners. She would love to see other schools replicate this effort and/or learn more about what other schools are doing in this regard. You can contact her at martamikkelsenpta@gmail.com.

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Activist of the Month: Beth Sigall http://educationvoters.org/2014/12/02/activist-of-the-month-beth-sigall/ http://educationvoters.org/2014/12/02/activist-of-the-month-beth-sigall/#comments Tue, 02 Dec 2014 16:00:58 +0000 http://educationvoters.org/?p=23355 Doorbelling for Senator Hill. From left: Beth Sigall, Dawn McCravey, Betsy Cohen, Janet Suppes, (unknown), and Sen. Steve Litzow.

Doorbelling for Senator Hill. From left: Beth Sigall, Dawn McCravey, Betsy Cohen, Janet Suppes, (unknown), and Sen. Steve Litzow.

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 December: Beth Sigall. Read more about Beth’s work this fall campaigning for Senator Andy Hill.

You may remember Beth Sigall from April, when she was selected as one of three Activists of the Month in our first-ever “team” award. We honored her in April for her work during the 2014 legislative session, and we’re thrilled to honor her again for her work during the 2014 midterm elections.

Up until now, Beth’s involvement in political campaigns has been limited to policy advising on education issues or work on local levy and bond campaigns. Because she had worked closely with Senator Hill on education over the course of his term, it seemed like a logical next step to get involved directly, on the ground, in his re-election effort.

When asked why this particular campaign, Beth explained that she did what she knew was right. “I’ve worked with Senator Hill since he was a freshman senator, and I’ve always been struck by how representative he was of our community. He’s leading us in the direction the state needs to go.”

As the midterm elections were beginning to ramp up, Beth noticed an increase in information about Senator Hill—in particular, an increase in misinformation about the senator—and by people or organizations that have no presence in her district.

Galvanized by these negative, inaccurate ads, Beth decided she wanted to provide accurate and factual information to the people in her district. Her work on Senator Hill’s campaign focused on two areas: social media and grassroots organizing.

For social media, she worked with a friend and neighbor in Redmond, Julie Freguia, to create and manage a Facebook page. By combining compelling visual and written communications, Beth and Julie were able to get information about the senator to members of their district. Beth says that they focused on Senator Hill’s accomplishments during previous legislative sessions and his endorsements from other individuals and organizations, including the League of Education Voters.

In her grassroots work, Beth spent a lot of time talking to people, helping supporters write letters to the editor, and doorbelling. She says that talking to those you know is the most important thing you can do: “The number-one motivator in local elections is reaching out to your friends and neighbors and asking them personally for their vote.”

When asked what she is most proud of regarding her work in this election, Beth says, “We got people engaged who normally stay away from politics.” And on all of the effort her work took, Beth says, “What I did pales in comparison to what Senator Hill did. He knocked on 10,000 doors. It’s easy to be inspired by Senator Hill because he’s always working, always talking to people, and always listening to what they have to say.”

Among those Beth energized to doorbell were Senator Steve Litzow, LEV’s State Field Director Kelly Munn, and LEV key activists Betsy Cohen, Dawn McCravey, and Janet Suppes. Alison Meryweather and Jody Mull also volunteered on social media.

Kelly emphasized the importance of Beth’s work during the campaign, saying, “Legislators are influenced by the people they talk to, but many of the people they talk to are not representative of their communities. Beth understands how the Legislature works and the importance of community engagement; she’s extraordinary at her work. Starting with doorbelling, Beth listened to many people, gained varied perspectives, and built a team that can now advocate during the legislative session and better represent the 45th district.”

When asked if she would work on future political campaigns for other candidates, Beth says that she would consider it. “To the extent that we as education advocates can get into the political realm and help elect people who will support and further our goals, we have to do it.”

In the meantime, Beth is keeping the conversation going online through her Facebook page, Beth Sigall on Education.

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