League of Education Voters http://educationvoters.org Building a quality public education system from cradle to career. Thu, 17 Apr 2014 01:49:01 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Making sure the new discipline law works http://educationvoters.org/2014/04/16/making-sure-the-new-discipline-law-works/ http://educationvoters.org/2014/04/16/making-sure-the-new-discipline-law-works/#comments Wed, 16 Apr 2014 16:00:31 +0000 http://educationvoters.org/?p=22416 Katie MosehauerKatie Mosehauer, Executive Director of Washington Appleseed, recently spoke with Steve Scher at KUOW about the new Washington state school discipline law, and how the changes affect schools, students, and parents.

Every year, thousands of Washington students are excluded from school. Students of color, low-income students, and special education students are disciplined at higher rates than other students, which contribute to Washington’s opportunity and achievement gaps. Higher rates of suspensions and expulsions lead to higher dropout rates, increases in grade repetition, and a rise in incarceration rates.

During the 2013 legislative session, advocacy organizations including Washington Appleseed and the League of Education Voters, community members, parents, and advocates worked to pass a law (ESSB 5946) that makes discipline data public and limits the number of days that students can be removed from class.

As a result of that law, we are now learning exactly how disproportional discipline practices are throughout the state. For example, in Seattle Public Schools, black students are more than five times as likely to be suspended or expelled as their white classmates. In Olympia, foster care students are more than seven times as likely to be suspended or expelled as their classmates not in foster care.*

Katie says that “some of our most vulnerable students are bearing the largest burden” in the traditional school discipline system and describes the law as a first step to “address the negative consequences of school discipline.”

But the law is just the first step. The next step is writing the rules that define the law, which Katie describes as providing the detail in how the law is implemented and put into practice. The Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) is currently inviting public comment on its proposed rules.

Katie says that OSPI’s proposed rules are a “good start,” but that there is room for improvement. In particular, she would like the language in the rules clarified to state that reengagement meetings are required. The current language is not clear in this regard. The other change she would like to see is clarification that the law applies to all students, regardless of when they were suspended or expelled, so that students who were suspended or expelled before the law’s effective date won’t get stuck in limbo, not knowing when or if they’ll be able to return to school.

And after the rules are approved? Katie says it’s “time to redefine the tools we use to discipline students.” There are better, more effective ways to implement school discipline—ones that keep students engaged rather than kicking them out of school.

To learn more about school discipline or get involved, visit our website. To send a letter to OSPI about the proposed rules, visit our action alert page.

Katie Mosehauer joined Washington Appleseed in 2009 with a varied history of nonprofit management. She has led political campaigns for environmental organizations across the country, assisted with Democratic Party field operations, led local grassroots campaigns for social justice, and has also worked extensively with local arts and culture organizations.

*These statistics are based on preliminary data provided at LEV’s request by Washington Appleseed.

]]>
http://educationvoters.org/2014/04/16/making-sure-the-new-discipline-law-works/feed/ 0
The Battle over School Funding http://educationvoters.org/2014/04/15/the-battle-over-school-funding/ http://educationvoters.org/2014/04/15/the-battle-over-school-funding/#comments Tue, 15 Apr 2014 20:00:50 +0000 http://educationvoters.org/?p=22404 The Battle over School Funding: The Legislature v. The Supreme Court; May 1, 2014, 12 PM, SeattleEarlier this year, the State Supreme Court ordered the Washington legislature to provide a plan by April 30, 2014 for fixing the state’s unconstitutional education funding system. The McCleary v. Washington decision found that the state was violating its constitutional obligation to amply fund basic education and gave lawmakers a 2018 deadline to fix this violation.

In a recent legal analysis of the case, Judge Phil Talmadge, former State Supreme Court Justice (1995–2001), wrote that the Court’s decision to “retain jurisdiction to monitor legislative compliance” represents “uncharted waters” for the state. Judge Talmadge lays out a number of potential outcomes in his analysis of this legislative-judicial battle over school funding, writing: “The issue presented here is not one of whether the Court has the power… to order compliance with its McCleary opinion. It does. The more basic and nuanced question is whether it is wise to exercise that power.”

Whether you side with the court or the legislature, we can all agree that Washington’s education funding system must be overhauled to ensure that there is ample, equitable, and stable funding.

Please join the League of Education Voters (LEV) Foundation and the Center for American Progress for a lunchtime panel discussion on May 1, 2014. Our panelists are Senator Christine Rolfes, former Justice Phil Talmadge, LEV Director of Government Relations Frank Ordway, and Center for American Progress’ Director of Research of Legal Progress Billy Corriher. Our panel of judicial, legislative, and policy experts are sure to engage us in a spirited conversation on education funding in our state.

For more information about this event, visit our Speaker Series web page. To RSVP, please contact Nancy Hopkins at nancy@educationvoters.org or 206.728.6448.

]]>
http://educationvoters.org/2014/04/15/the-battle-over-school-funding/feed/ 0
Racial Equity and Washington’s Children: A Call to Action http://educationvoters.org/2014/04/09/racial-equity-and-washingtons-children-a-call-to-action/ http://educationvoters.org/2014/04/09/racial-equity-and-washingtons-children-a-call-to-action/#comments Wed, 09 Apr 2014 21:45:31 +0000 http://educationvoters.org/?p=22396 The following article was originally posted on the Children’s Alliance blog on April 1, 2014, and is re-posted here with permission.

Two children student. Image from the Race for Results report.The new Race for Results report offers quantitative evidence of the barriers that prevent all our children from grasping the building blocks of success.

Here in Washington and across the country, no single group of children covered by the report—African American, American Indian/Alaska Native, Asian/Pacific Islander, Latino, or white—is meeting key milestones of child well-being. But children of color, especially, face greater barriers to opportunity.

Race for Results points out that the largest obstacles to future success are faced by African American, American Indian/Alaska Native, and Latino children. And while Asian/Pacific Islander children score better in the rankings than other children of color, our state’s large Asian/Pacific Islander community contains a diversity of experience.

As noted by KIDS COUNT in Washington, test scores of children of Southeast Asian ethnic groups (e.g. Hmong, Laotian, Vietnamese and Cambodian) tend to be lower than scores by children of Japanese, East Indian or Filipino ancestry. Twice as many Pacific Islander third-graders score below grade level in reading as Asian American third-graders, according to the state Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction.

What can we do to make sure all children have the means for success? We point policymakers, parents and civic leaders in four directions:

One: Eliminate disparities in access to food/nutrition assistance, for example byrestoring equity to our anti-hunger infrastructure;

Two: Close the opportunity gap by putting high-quality early learning within reach of all children ages birth to 5;

Three: Focus on health equity—making sure all kids get the preventive medical and dental care they need;

Four: Back up our commitment to our kids with sound public investments; reform existing tax preferences and adopt new sources of revenue.

America was founded on the proposition that all of us should have the opportunity to achieve. For kids, that means access to education, health care, healthy food and a safe and loving home. Our shared prosperity rests on the investments we make in children today.

To read the Race for Results policy report, click here. To find other key indicators of child well-being on the local, state and national level, go to the KIDS COUNT Data Center.

Race for Results is issued with the support of KIDS COUNT in Washington, the Children’s Alliance’s partnership with the Washington State Budget & Policy Center. To get a copy of our latest report, The State of Washington’s Children 2013click here.

 

]]>
http://educationvoters.org/2014/04/09/racial-equity-and-washingtons-children-a-call-to-action/feed/ 0
Activist(s) of the Month: Sarah Butcher, Jennifer Karls, Beth Sigall http://educationvoters.org/2014/04/07/activists-of-the-month-sarah-butcher-jennifer-karls-beth-sigall/ http://educationvoters.org/2014/04/07/activists-of-the-month-sarah-butcher-jennifer-karls-beth-sigall/#comments Mon, 07 Apr 2014 16:00:56 +0000 http://educationvoters.org/?p=22365 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 Activists of the Month for April: Sarah Butcher, Jennifer Karls, and Beth Sigall. Read more about their experiences as strong advocates for special education.

Sarah Butcher, Jennifer Karls, and Beth Sigall are strong advocates for public education in Washington state. Sarah and Jennifer formed the Bellevue Special Needs PTA in 2012, where Jennifer serves as President and Sarah as co-Vice President. Beth serves as the Vice President of Advocacy for the Lake Washington PTSA Council.

How it all started

Jennifer Karls (left) and Sarah Butcher

Jennifer Karls (left) and Sarah Butcher

Sarah and Jennifer began advocating in the same way that many do—when their children began school. Both have children with special needs, and the unique challenges that parents and children both faced in public school began early.

When her eldest son entered kindergarten, Sarah describes her experience as being isolating and lonely, having to navigate the complexities and bureaucracies of special education in public schools with no supports. Jennifer echoed the same sentiment and added that the way that special education programs in schools tend to be “self-contained” adds to the sense of isolation, because it’s impossible to interact with other parents in the same way that one might in a “typical” classroom.

Borne of this sense of isolation was a desire to reach out to other parents, organize, and advocate. That’s how the Bellevue Special Needs PTA came to fruition for Sarah and Jennifer. League of Education Voters State Field Director Kelly Munn says that the work Sarah and Jennifer have done has also led to Special Needs PTAs being formed around the state.

Beth’s advocacy began in 2002 after her son was diagnosed with autism at age 3. Beth started reading and learning everything she could about special education—and while her background as a lawyer allowed her to do so reasonably well—Beth also knew that most parents don’t have legal training.

Seeing “profound, unfair disparities” in how children with special needs were treated versus their peers propelled Beth into advocating for students with disabilities as an attorney for several years, and for the past five years as an advocate and policy advisor.

The 2014 legislative session

Beth, Jennifer, and Sarah connected during the 2014 legislative session to work on several bills. One of the bills focused on creating a career track for para-educators, and the original version of the bill had little mention of special education, although more than half of instructional hours for students with special needs are delivered by para-educators.

In order to make the language more inclusive, they reached out to parents and families who could share their personal stories and also testified themselves. Sarah said their strategy involved “connecting personal stories to the data that’s out there is critical—it’s the stories that move people to action.” They also worked directly with the bill’s primary sponsor, Sen. Andy Hill, to help give a voice to the special education community during deliberations around this landmark bill.

Since that time, Beth, Jennifer, and Sarah have worked to assemble a team of parents to help advise work on the bill moving forward.

The trio also worked on the College & Career Ready Diploma. Sarah said that a number of other special education advocacy groups expressed concerns about the bill, but their idea was to “get a seat at the table” so that meaningful conversations would include the voice of the special needs community.

They worked with several legislators to propose a task force that would identify and consider how to best support all kids and meet their needs—including students with disabilities. With LEV’s Government Relations Director Frank Ordway, they coordinated outreach to key legislators both in Olympia (where Sarah and Jennifer literally went door-to-door) and through other outreach. This allowed them to start a conversation with legislators about special education and bring their attention to it in the context of the College & Career Ready Diploma bill. (Gov. Jay Inslee ultimately vetoed the task force from 6552 in light of its inclusion in a supplemental budget bill, SB 6002.)

A third bill popped up unexpectedly during the legislative session that would have watered down notice requirements to parents for the use of isolation and restraints at school. And it was really through this bill that the strength of the trio’s organizing efforts became clear. They activated their base, through their own connections and with other Special Needs and Special Education PTAs and the Washington Autism Alliance and Advocacy. As a result, the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Monica Stonier, withdrew the bill due to the concerned parents who spoke up.

Kelly described how Beth, Jennifer, and Sarah worked so effectively together: “Beth, Jennifer, and Sarah are articulate, but beyond that, they try to understand where everyone is coming from and meet people where they are. They listen well, incorporate the concerns of others into their views, and offer solutions—not just voice the problems.”

Beth credits the success of the legislative session to the army of parents who raised their voices: “Parents are the best advocates.” The goal in effecting change when working with policymakers, she says, is to create a mindset of “not doing this is not an option”—there’s simply no other choice.

Looking forward

Beth Sigall with her son in Olympia

Beth Sigall with her son in Olympia

Over the next few years, Beth says that she will turn much of her focus to job training and transition. Research shows that students with disabilities excel in jobs if they start job training or apprenticeships earlier and more intensively—and training that fits the skills of the student. Beth also plans to continue her advocacy work in behalf of foster care children as a Court Appointed Special Advocate (“CASA”).

Sarah and Jennifer plan to continue to grow the Bellevue Special Needs PTA, support and mentor special needs parent groups that are forming across our state, and connect people together.

All three will continue their work in education policy to ensure that the policy is inclusive of people with special needs. As Sarah put it, “If we figure out how to empower our most vulnerable students to succeed, all kids will do well.”

]]>
http://educationvoters.org/2014/04/07/activists-of-the-month-sarah-butcher-jennifer-karls-beth-sigall/feed/ 0
Beth Richer: Advocate for the Underserved http://educationvoters.org/2014/04/04/beth-richer-advocate-for-the-underserved/ http://educationvoters.org/2014/04/04/beth-richer-advocate-for-the-underserved/#comments Fri, 04 Apr 2014 16:00:53 +0000 http://educationvoters.org/?p=22357 Beth RicherBeth Richer first worked with the League of Education Voters (LEV) as a consultant with the Youth & Families Initiative. She returned full-time in 2010 after managing Rep. Marcie Maxwell’s (successful) re-election campaign to help LEV grow and build relationships with Washington legislators. While at LEV, Beth’s work focused primarily on issues that directly correlate with closing the opportunity and achievement gaps for Washington’s students.

Beth recently left our organization to take a position as the Senior Advocate Engagement Manager at Health Advocacy Strategies, an organization that focuses on bringing in patients as advocates and emphasizing an authentic patient voice in biotechnology and pharmaceutical marketing.

A native Ohioan, Beth earned undergraduate degrees in political science and theology from Xavier University. She made her way to the West Coast via the Jesuit Volunteer Corps, spending a year in service working for local nonprofits and toward social justice.

Frank Ordway, Director of Government Relations at LEV, commented on Beth’s contributions to LEV, saying, “Beth’s confidence and professionalism has been a huge asset to LEV. Her strong commitment to all kids—especially the underserved—made a big impact in our work to improve public education for all Washington kids, from cradle to career. It’s been a pleasure working with her over the last five years, and I wish her all the best in her new position.”

In her free time, Beth enjoys getting lost in the mountains, paddling around Lake Union, wishing Seattle had a basketball team, and searching out anyone who can elongate their O’s as only true Mid-Westerners can.

Beth was a valuable member of LEV’s team, and we will miss her greatly, but we wish her the best in her next adventure at Health Advocacy Strategies.

]]>
http://educationvoters.org/2014/04/04/beth-richer-advocate-for-the-underserved/feed/ 0
Transforming School Discipline: The Next Step http://educationvoters.org/2014/04/03/transforming-school-discipline-the-next-step/ http://educationvoters.org/2014/04/03/transforming-school-discipline-the-next-step/#comments Thu, 03 Apr 2014 22:48:21 +0000 http://educationvoters.org/?p=22363 Transforming School Discipline: The Next Step [image of children running]During the 2013 legislative session, many of you helped us pass a law (SB 5946) that makes school discipline data public and limits the number of days that students can be removed from class.

That was the first step in transforming school discipline policies. Now it’s time to take another.

The Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) is inviting public comment on its implementation of the new law.

There are a few ways you can get involved.

  1. Learn more about the proposed rules and our recommendations for improving them.
  2. If you are part of an organization, add your name to our sign-on letter asking OSPI to strengthen the rules. Please contact Tracy Sherman with your organization’s name to sign on.
  3. Tell the state what you think of the rules by sending OSPI an email. (You can write your own letter or send a letter that we have drafted at the link above.) If you’re not sure whether you receive LEV action alerts, update your email subscription.
  4. Join us for a series of Lunchtime LEVinars on next steps, what you can do, and what transformed school discipline actually looks like. Our next webinar is on Tuesday, April 15, 12:30 p.m. Sign up to register for the webinar series.
  5. Contact our State Field Director, Kelly Munn: kelly@educationvoters.org, 206.728.6448 to learn how to send your own letter about discipline rules to OSPI.
  6. Interested in attending the discipline rules public hearing with us on May 5? Contact our State Field Director, Kelly Munn: kelly@educationvoters.org, 206.728.6448 to learn more.
  7. Learn more about school discipline in Washington state and the new law on the discipline page of our website.
]]>
http://educationvoters.org/2014/04/03/transforming-school-discipline-the-next-step/feed/ 0
Celebrating World Autism Day with an extraordinary accomplishment http://educationvoters.org/2014/04/02/celebrating-world-autism-day-with-an-extraordinary-accomplishment/ http://educationvoters.org/2014/04/02/celebrating-world-autism-day-with-an-extraordinary-accomplishment/#comments Wed, 02 Apr 2014 16:26:50 +0000 http://educationvoters.org/?p=22359 By Beth Sigall

Beth Sigall with her family. Clockwise from top left: Beth, Anthony, Jule, Thomas, and Joseph.

Beth Sigall with her family. Clockwise from top left: Beth, Anthony, Jule, Thomas, and Joseph.

Today as we observe World Autism Day, there is much to celebrate in our 14-year-old son Anthony’s life. Our journey began in 2002 with an autism diagnosis a few days shy of his third birthday. Like many parents, we were filled with more questions than answers, lots of anxiety, but a singular determination that together, somehow, we would figure this out so that our son could live a meaningful, productive, and enriching life.

We’ve faced many challenges since then. Learning to communicate, to do basic living skills, attend school, be part of a family, and just be a kid—all these things required countless hours of work by and with Anthony. Today he is an energetic teenager who loves to play Minecraft, take long and rigorous hikes with anyone who can keep up with him, do comedy improv, play piano, and hang out with his brothers and cousins.

Just a few weeks ago Anthony learned to do something ordinary, but for him and for many people with autism, it was extraordinary: he learned how to take public transportation.

He did this the same way he’s learned many other tasks—by breaking it down into steps, with lots of previewing and reviewing, and practicing various “what-if” scenarios to learn how to respond to the typical events on a bus route. He also works with a life coach who rode the bus with him on the first few days, helping him with transferring, keeping track of his fare card, and other needs. It’s a long bus ride from his school to our home—90 minutes door-to-door. A lot can happen in 90 minutes.

After several days of hard work, not only had Anthony learned to take the bus, but he had started to grow up. He had crossed that coveted threshold into adulthood—that place where we make our own decisions, live our own lives, and start to fill in the blank pages of what our future will become.

Riding a bus is a way for our son to rely less on “Mom and Dad” and more on his larger community—on bus drivers, students, and teachers at his school; and yes, even strangers. Strangers who offered him advice on how to keep track of his fare card (“use a lanyard”). Moms with their own young children who kept a watchful eye on him because they knew (Moms always know) he was learning to do something really important on his own. Bus drivers who reminded him to scan his fare card when he forgot. Teachers who reminded him “today is a bus day,” and made sure he didn’t forget his coat or backpack as he hurried out the door.

It’s hard to let go of your kids when they grow up.

This is also true for parenting a child with autism, but the difference is that the letting go is far more uncertain and requires a faith in humanity that can at times overwhelm.

Anthony will always need extra help—extra patience, extra kindness, extra understanding. And we, as his parents, won’t always be around to help facilitate that.

But watching him learn to take the bus—and watching all those along his route come together to somehow miraculously deposit our son on our doorstep at the end of the school day in one piece with a smile on his face—that process has brought home to us a deeper appreciation for what it means to belong to a community. A community cares for all of its members, looks out for each other, respects differences, and lends a helping hand, at times without even being asked.

And that’s why on this World Autism Day, we celebrate an ordinary event—riding a bus—because it reflects so much extraordinary potential in our common humanity.

Beth Sigall is a mother of three and a dedicated education advocate. She serves as the Vice President of Advocacy for the Lake Washington PTSA Council and was recently named their Outstanding Advocate by the council at their Founders’ Day Luncheon. To learn more about autism, visit Washington Autism Alliance & Advocacy.

]]>
http://educationvoters.org/2014/04/02/celebrating-world-autism-day-with-an-extraordinary-accomplishment/feed/ 2
The 2014 Legislative Session http://educationvoters.org/2014/03/21/the-2014-legislative-session/ http://educationvoters.org/2014/03/21/the-2014-legislative-session/#comments Fri, 21 Mar 2014 18:34:46 +0000 http://educationvoters.org/?p=22338 The 2014 legislative session may have been short, but there were significant policy accomplishments in improving public education in Washington state. These accomplishments expand access to financial aid for higher education for all Washington students, pave the way for all students to graduate from high school ready for college or career, and make steps toward reducing the opportunity and achievement gaps.

At least six bills that passed this session addressed aspects of the opportunity and achievement gaps. The first of these bills was the Dream Act (or Real Hope Act), which expands college financial aid to students regardless of immigration status and appropriates $5 million for the State Need Grant for 2014–15.

One of the bills that passed late in the session was approval of the College and Career Ready Diploma, to better prepare graduates for life after high school, by updating high school graduation requirements to better align with knowledge and skills needed for their college or career plans. The quiet passage of this bill belied the work done to pass it. Indeed, the League of Education Voters’ work to update Washington’s high school graduation requirements began in 2006, and it took eight years of continued effort to upgrade the requirements.

Beginning with the high school class of 2019 (with built-in flexibility for districts), students at public high schools will complete 24 credits, which better align with entry requirements to public colleges in Washington. The law also builds in flexibility for students to pursue career and technical education or create a personalized plan to better align with their career goals.

While the League of Education Voters (LEV) is pleased that so many bills with a focus on the opportunity and achievement gaps passed, we were disappointed that the legislature did not follow Governor Jay Inslee’s guidance and take action to protect Washington’s No Child Left Behind waiver. Along with the rest of the state, we are now watching and waiting to see what action the federal government will take.

We are now looking forward to the 2015 legislative session, where we will continue to work toward our vision that every Washington student receives a an excellent public education with the opportunity for success—from cradle to career.

To hear more about the 2014 legislative session, listen to our session wrap-up webinar with LEV’s Director of Government Relations, Frank Ordway. Below is the final list of bills that passed this session.


Bill Summary
HB 2519 Expands access to early learning opportunities for children in the child welfare system and requires the Department of Early Learning and Department of Social and Health Services to develop recommendations for improved collaboration in order to address these children’s needs.
SB 6062 Requires districts to submit to the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) information about its employee collective bargaining agreements. OSPI will post the information online.
SB 6074 In order to improve educational outcomes for homeless students by gathering more and better data and distributing best practices and other means to support these students.
SB 6129 Establishes a work group to design minimum employment standards for paraeducators; professional development (PD) supporting the standards; a paraeducator career ladder; an articulated pathway for teacher prep and certification; and teacher PD on how to maximize the use of paraeducators in the classroom.
SB 6163 Extended school year pilot program will lengthen the school year by 20 days for 3 years starting in 2015–16; eligible schools have a low-income enrollment of 75 percent or higher. Up to 10 schools will be selected. Pilot applicants must get staff buy-in; solicit input from the community; and get school board approval.
SB 6424 Establishes Washington state seal of biliteracy to recognize public high school graduates who have attained a high level of proficiency in speaking; reading; and writing in one or more world languages; in addition to English.
SB 6523 The Dream Act; also called the Real Hope Act. Extends State Need Grant eligibility to qualifying undocumented students who have graduated from a Washington high school; appropriates $5 million for the State Need Grant for 2014–15.
SB 6552 Adopts policies related to high school curriculum in science; technology; engineering; and mathematics (STEM) coursework; delay of the 1080 instructional hour requirements; increase in guidance counselor allocation; and implementation of the 24-credit high school graduation requirement.
]]> http://educationvoters.org/2014/03/21/the-2014-legislative-session/feed/ 3 Korsmo’s Weekly Roundup, Week of 3/10-3/14 http://educationvoters.org/2014/03/17/korsmos-weekly-roundup-week-of-310-314/ http://educationvoters.org/2014/03/17/korsmos-weekly-roundup-week-of-310-314/#comments Mon, 17 Mar 2014 23:00:02 +0000 http://educationvoters.org/?p=22251 Edu-Buddies,

Greetings! That giant sucking sound you heard on Friday was not the rush of legislators exiting Olympia—though they mostly did get out of Dodge. NO, that was me, racing to my son’s elementary school auction, where I crusaded against unbid-for items in the silent auction and sober school secretaries. You’d have thought it was my first time to the charity auction rodeo. Thankfully, my paddle number drowned in a table-mate’s spilled chardonnay and my floppy instrument of mass expenditure was finally decommissioned.

However, I am the proud new owner of one second-grade art project and several of the aforementioned unbid-for (other than my bid) items of varying use. The real prize eluded me as my raffle numbers were not called for the Merry Maids visits. Because this event was “for the children,” I won’t dwell on the number of Merry Maids visits I could have purchased with the money spent. That notwithstanding, why does it take a school auction to buy science lab equipment? I’m grateful to the parents who “raised the paddle,” and baffled as to why they have to.

It might interest you to know that my son’s school has a free and reduced lunch rate (FRL) that hovers in the mid to high 40s, percentage-wise. So, these events are small miracles in and of themselves. And every one of the dollars raised is much needed. And then some. Now, you may be saying to yourself, but Chris, a high FRL means federal assistance in the form of Title I money. Not so fast. Distributing those dollars is a district-by-district thing. And the thing where my son goes to school is that if the school doesn’t meet a certain threshold, say 50 percent FRL, the school receives no Title I dollars. It wouldn’t take much to get there. About 15 more kids eligible for FRL…. It’s some strange system that leaves nearly 200 kids behind.

And, this leads me to our last update from this session:

Waiving the White Flag: Before exiting stage left at the end of session last week, the legislature cried “uncle” on the “No Child Left Behind” (NCLB) waiver. Recall that the feds were requiring changes be made to our teacher and principal evaluation system that would require state assessment results, when relevant, to be one of multiple measures when determining a teacher’s student growth score on evaluations. This change would have allowed the state’s schools to forego writing letters explaining that they are failing because they don’t have 100 percent of their students at the state standard. Failure to get the waiver also risked taking almost $40 million in Title I dollars out of the classroom. Long story short, we failed. While the Feds have yet to notify the state, the legislature did not act to change the evaluation systems and it looks like poor kids will be the ones to pay.

The Kids are All Right: Not all was for naught in Olympia, however. And a lot of the good work was aimed at helping close gaps, evening the playing field, and raising achievement for all kids. A small raft of bills with these goals were passed, as did a signature piece of legislation we’ve worked on for years. And years. And years. The former includes:

  • HB 2519: Ensures that children involved in child welfare are eligible and prioritized for the Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program (ECEAP)—the state’s preschool program for low-income children.
  • SB 6074: In order to improve educational outcomes for homeless students by gathering more and better data and distributing best practices and other means to support these students.
  • SB 6129: Establishes a work group to design minimum employment standards for paraeducators, professional development (PD) supporting the standards, a paraeducator career ladder, an articulated pathway for teacher prep and certification, and teacher PD on how to maximize the use of paraeducators in the classroom.
  • SB 6163: Extended school year pilot program will lengthen the school year by 20 days for 3 years starting in 2015–16; eligible schools have a low-income enrollment of 75 percent or higher. Up to 10 schools will be selected. Pilot applicants must get staff buy-in, solicit input from the community, and get school board approval.
  • SB 6424: Establishes Washington state seal of biliteracy to recognize public high school graduates who have attained a high level of proficiency in speaking, reading, and writing in one or more world languages, in addition to English.
  • SB 6523: The Dream Act; also called the Real Hope Act. Extends State Need Grant eligibility to qualifying undocumented students who have graduated from a Washington high school; appropriates $5 million for the State Need Grant for 2014–15.

And then there was SB 6552, a signature bill of this session and many sessions prior, which, in part, changes high school graduation requirements to better align with college entry requirements. This issue, known as “Core 24″ back in the day and “college and career ready” this past session, has been bounced between the State Board of Education and the legislature for over seven years. It’s hard to believe this is actually coming to fruition. But gratifying to have stayed with it.

While we’re on the topic of closing gaps, Washington’s College Bound Scholarship Program seems to be doing just that.

Elsewhere:

  • When you start on the right foot, it’s easier to stay on the righteous path.
  • Check out a new series of briefing papers on discipline disparities—including best practice and policy to support the work. And more on discipline disparities.
  • A study to learn what works in early learning.

That’s it for this session, folks. As always, thanks for all you do on behalf of Washington’s kids.

Chris (and Team LEV)
This is the last edition of Korsmo’s Weekly Roundup for the 2014 legislative session. To receive Kormo’s Weekly Roundup next year, sign up to receive Korsmo’s Weekly Roundup via email, or sign up for LEV’s mailing list to stay up-to-date on what’s happening during the rest of the year.

]]>
http://educationvoters.org/2014/03/17/korsmos-weekly-roundup-week-of-310-314/feed/ 0
A multifaceted approach yields a strong step forward in closing the opportunity and achievement gaps http://educationvoters.org/2014/03/14/a-multifaceted-approach-yields-a-strong-step-forward-in-closing-the-opportunity-and-achievement-gaps/ http://educationvoters.org/2014/03/14/a-multifaceted-approach-yields-a-strong-step-forward-in-closing-the-opportunity-and-achievement-gaps/#comments Fri, 14 Mar 2014 18:12:40 +0000 http://educationvoters.org/?p=22309 By Beth Richer, League of Education Voters Government Relations

Governor Jay Inslee signs the Dream Act (Real Hope Act). Photo by the Seattle PI. Governor Jay Inslee signs the Dream Act (Real Hope Act). Photo by the Seattle PI.

Governor Jay Inslee signs the Dream Act (Real Hope Act). Photo by the Seattle PI.

Within any given legislative session there are victories, defeats, and measures left in a state of limbo. The 2014 session was no different. But amidst those victories, defeats, and states of limbo, there was an underlying theme for much of the education legislation related to the opportunity gap. Legislators, advocacy organizations, teachers, parents, students, and business leaders alike all said loud and clear: “We must take action to close the gaps and address our most underserved students.”

During the 2014 legislative session, legislators did just that through a number of successful bills, starting with the Dream Act. Working shoulder to shoulder with advocacy groups and organizations, at least six bills working to address aspects of the opportunity and achievement gaps, from early learning through higher education, will make their way to Governor Inslee’s desk.

These bills ensure:

  • The availability of the Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program (ECEAP) for our earliest learners on welfare
  • Honor the skills of biliterate students who speak and write a second language
  • Address summer learning loss and explore ways to reduce its impact
  • Outline a direction for further development for paraeducators and acknowledge the irreplaceable role they play in the classroom
  • Allow all of Washington’s students to pursue higher education with fewer financial barriers rather than just dream about it

This is real work that makes real change.

There is no single method to close the opportunity and achievement gaps. These gaps are multifaceted and therefore require a multifaceted approach; we know this from years of work and research.

The bills passed this session are steps toward addressing some of the many aspects that both create the opportunity and achievement gaps and prevent them from closing.

Look at any of these bills individually and they might not seem like a significant change. But if you look at them together, you will see that the conversations that brought these bills forward have dictated a new direction in legislation. These bills prioritize serving students who have fallen through the cracks and meeting their needs within the system rather than outside of it.

The League of Education Voters had the honor of learning from and working with numerous organizations, coalitions, and leaders in the community to make the passage of these bills possible. This work is a commitment to our values and a commitment to a high-quality public education for all Washington students.

Below are the bills focusing on closing the opportunity and achievement gaps that passed during the 2014 legislative session.

Bill Summary
HB 2519 Ensures that children involved in child welfare are eligible and prioritized for the Early Childhood Education and Assistance Program (ECEAP)—the state’s preschool program for low-income children.
SB 6074 In order to improve educational outcomes for homeless students by gathering more and better data and distributing best practices and other means to support these students.
SB 6129 Establishes a work group to design minimum employment standards for paraeducators; professional development (PD) supporting the standards; a paraeducator career ladder; an articulated pathway for teacher prep and certification; and teacher PD on how to maximize the use of paraeducators in the classroom.
SB 6163 Extended school year pilot program will lengthen the school year by 20 days for 3 years starting in 2015–16; eligible schools have a low-income enrollment of 75 percent or higher. Up to 10 schools will be selected. Pilot applicants must get staff buy-in; solicit input from the community; and get school board approval.
SB 6424 Establishes Washington state seal of biliteracy to recognize public high school graduates who have attained a high level of proficiency in speaking; reading; and writing in one or more world languages; in addition to English.
SB 6523 The Dream Act; also called the Real Hope Act. Extends State Need Grant eligibility to qualifying undocumented students who have graduated from a Washington high school; appropriates $5 million for the State Need Grant for 2014–15.
]]>
http://educationvoters.org/2014/03/14/a-multifaceted-approach-yields-a-strong-step-forward-in-closing-the-opportunity-and-achievement-gaps/feed/ 0