Posts Tagged basic education

Every Student Needs an Effective Teacher

Teacher Helping Student - League of Education VotersAs discussed in our previous blog post on teacher compensation, investing in our teachers is critical to closing the opportunity gap in Washington state. Research has found that effective teachers* are inequitably distributed between districts and between schools within districts according to student poverty**. (Adamson and Darling-Hammond, IES brief, IES study, WA Equity report). This means that some of the students with the highest needs don’t have access to the teachers that can meet those needs. Research also indicates that improving the distribution of effective teachers can lessen the achievement gap between low-income and non-low-income students. So, how can we make sure that every student has access to effective and well-supported educators?

There are a number of reasons for the inequitable distribution of effective educators. In Washington, differences in salaries between districts because of local levy dollars and teacher shortages in particular endorsement areas have been found to contribute to the issue. Working conditions, school leadership, and available supports are also factors in teacher’s decisions of where to teach. In order to address these factors and ensure every student has access to effective teachers, we should pursue strategies to attract and better prepare new teachers as well as encourage and better support existing teachers to teach in high needs schools. Below are some of the strategies that could help us accomplish that.

Attracting and Preparing:

  • Increase starting teacher salary to attract more individuals to become teachers.
  • Create alternative pathways to certification to enable paraeducators and other career changers to pursue teaching. This will not only help give more effective individuals the opportunity to pursue teaching, but could also increase the number of teachers from historically underserved communities and diversify the teaching force.
  • Increase teacher preparation standards to make sure that teachers have received the training they need before they enter the classroom. This includes raising expectations for content and pedagogical knowledge, standardizing those expectations across preparation programs in Washington, and increasing preparation program quality.
  • Include more student teaching and practicum in teacher preparation programs. This will help future teachers gain more hands-on experience before entering their own classrooms. This can include partnership with districts, such as the Seattle Teacher Residency Program or Heritage University’s Residency program, and mentoring programs once teachers are placed in schools.

Supporting and Encouraging:

  • Provide state-funded professional development for all teachers. By supporting all teachers in their professional growth, we can increase the effectiveness of all educators.
  • Provide targeted professional development for teachers and principals in high needs schools. This will support teachers in meeting the specific needs of their students, and principals in meeting the needs of their teachers. The professional development could also be designed as an incentive to encourage teachers to move to high needs school, by providing additional opportunities for professional growth.
  • Institute mentoring programs in high needs schools. This would provide a leadership opportunity for veteran teachers and additional support for new teachers, improving the working conditions and growth opportunities for both.
  • Allow more flexibility for principals in high needs schools. Flexibility in staffing and programming could attract effective principals and allow them to set the culture and working conditions that will attract effective teachers.
  • Provide student loan forgiveness for teachers and principals who work in high needs schools for a sustained period of time.

Additional Strategies:

  • In order to really have a sense of whether students have access to effective educators, we must improve data collection and indicators of teacher effectiveness. Our current indicators of certification, education level, and years of experience do not provide information about actual teacher performance and impact on student learning. The Washington Equity report outlines some potential options for using the teacher evaluation system to enhance our effectiveness data.
  • Move bargaining of teacher salaries to the state level. This would eliminate the differences between districts in salary levels, thus decreasing the recruiting advantages one district may have over another.

How else can we make sure that every student has access to effective and well-supported educators?


*Effective educator is defined differently in various studies. Some use value-added measures that incorporate student growth and others use definitions based on credentials and years of experience.

**Two of the studies also found similar inequitable distribution based on student race and ethnicity.


Read Part 1 of our McCleary blog series, Rethinking Our Education System

Posted in: Blog, Closing the Gaps, Funding, Teacher Prep

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Rethinking Our Education System

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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McCleary Resources

Olympia - LEV McCleary Information In McCleary v. State of Washington, the Washington state Supreme Court ruled that the State of Washington is violating the constitutional rights of students by failing to amply fund basic education. The Court ordered the Legislature to make “steady, real, and measurable” progress each year to fully fund K-12 public education by 2018.  Below are resources that will help clarify the debate over education funding.

LEV’s Perspective on the Latest Supreme Court McCleary Response

Definition of Basic Education

Glossary of Key Education Terms

Our view on McCleary opportunities:

Rethinking Our Education System

Teachers: The Most Important Part of Our Education System

Every Student Needs an Effective Teacher

Presentations on education funding by the LEV Policy Team:

  1. I Can See McClear-ly Now: A look at the education funding debate in Washington, gives you an in-depth look at how we got where we are today.
  2. We Can Work it Out: A long and winding road to funding basic education, covers whether our current education funding structure is fair and whether the system benefits all kids.

LEVinar on The McCleary Task Force: What to Expect Archived Recording | Presentation Slides

McCleary Education Funding Task Force Duties and Responsibilities

Senate Bill 6195, which created the Education Funding Task Force

Our view on NPR Education’s School Money series: Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

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What Is Basic Education?

Classroom Students

By the LEV Policy Team

In Washington state, it is the state’s “paramount duty” to fund a program of basic education for all students. It is the Legislature’s responsibility to define that program of basic education. The Legislature has established goals for the education system, as well as a program intended to achieve those goals. The program of basic education can be changed and added to. It may only be reduced for educational reasons, not financial reasons. The instructional program of basic education is provided through the K-12 system, as well as in juvenile detention facilities, residential facilities, and adult correctional facilities (RCW 28A.150.200).

The Goals of Basic Education (RCW 28A.150.210)

  1. Read with comprehension, write effectively, and communicate successfully in a variety of ways and settings and with a variety of audiences;
  2. Know and apply the core concepts and principles of mathematics; social, physical, and life sciences; civics and history, including different cultures and participation in representative government; geography; arts; and health and fitness;
  3. Think analytically, logically, and creatively, and to integrate technology literacy and fluency as well as different experiences and knowledge to form reasoned judgments and solve problems; and
  4. Understand the importance of work and finance and how performance, effort, and decisions directly affect future career and educational opportunities.

The Program of Basic Education (RCW 28A.150.220)

The program of basic education is the legislatively defined basic education that the state must fully fund. Districts must use state funding to provide all of the following components to students.


•   1,000 hours of instruction for full-day Kindergarten (being phased in)

•   1,000 hours of instruction for grades 1-8 (districtwide average)*

•   1,080 hours of instruction for grades 9-12 (districtwide average)*

•   At least 180 school days

*Can be calculated as districtwide average of 1,027 hours grades 1-12


•    Instruction in the Essential Academic Learning Requirements (adopted by Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction)

o The Arts

o English Language Arts (Common Core)

o English Language Proficiency

o Early Learning

o Math (Common Core)

o Science

o Social Studies

o Educational Technology

o Health and Physical Education

o Integrated Environment and Sustainability

o World Languages

•    The opportunity to complete 24 credits for a high school diploma


•   Learning Assistance Program—supplemental instruction for “underachieving” students

•   Transitional Bilingual Instructional Program—supplemental instruction for English Language Learners

•   Special Education—appropriate education and supports for students with disabilities

•   Highly Capable Program—programs for highly capable students

•   Transportation (RCW 28A.150.200)

Components provided in the prototypical school funding formula (RCW 28A.150.260), such as Materials, Supplies, and Operating Costs (MSOC) or specific staffing ratio­­s do not constitute the program of basic education. They represent the Legislature’s assumptions of what resources are required to provide the program of basic education, but districts may choose to deliver the program in a different way.

Basic Education Compliance

Each district must certify to the State Board of Education that it is providing students with the minimum requirements of the basic education act. Districts must report that they provide:

  • K-12 students with 180 days of instruction
  • Kindergarten students with either 450 or 1,000 instructional hours, depending on full-day Kindergarten phase-in
  • Grades 1-8 students with a districtwide average of 1,000 instructional hours and grades 9-12 students with a districtwide average of 1,080 instructional hours, OR a districtwide average of 1,027 hours across grades 1-12
  • The opportunity to complete a 24-credit high school diploma

Instructional Hours: the definition of instructional hour is time in the school day from the beginning of the first period class to the end of the last period class, except for time spent on meals. Passing time and recess are counted as instructional time.

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Our View on NPR’s School Money Education Funding Series

NPR School Money series

By the LEV Policy Team

On Monday, NPR launched the first installment of a three week series on education funding. The series is highlighting disparities between states and between districts within the same state. This story shows that Washington is one of many states working towards adequately funding schools and ensuring students who need more support get more support.

This article brings attention to how the local and state share of education funding is generated and why different schools generate different levels of funding support. This point rings especially true for Washington, as it is the over-reliance on school district levies to provide basic education that was a key element of the McCleary Supreme Court ruling in 2012.

According to the article, Washington ranks behind 38 states in the level of funding support for K-12 schools at $9,383 per student. One challenge in comparing per-student spending across states is that the most recent data available is often three years old, making even new ranking lists not reflective of recent changes in education funding. The data used in this analysis is from the 2012-13 school year. For Washington, this means that it does not include any of the $3.2 billion of new investments dedicated to basic education over the last two budget cycles. Including the recent enhancements will boost per-pupil funding amounts in Washington by more than 10% over the per-student amount included in this article.

Washington still has substantial progress to make in fully funding basic education, but it has made significant strides in recent years that are not reflected in the per-student funding ranking of states in the NPR article. It is important to both acknowledge the progress Washington has made in funding education and continue to strongly advocate for equitable and ample education funding.

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Korsmo’s Weekly Roundup: McCleary Edition

Over the past two biennia, the state of Washington has increased funding for K–12 education by nearly 3 billion dollars. In addition, local maintenance and operations levies provide an additional $2 billion each year. The state and local school districts have told the public that these additional dollars will be invested in increases in teacher pay; K–3 class-size reductions; full-day kindergarten; transportation; and material, supplies, and operating costs (MSOC).

With this level of investment, parents should expect significant new services.

They should expect their K–3 classes to be demonstrably smaller.

They should not be asked to provide basic supplies.

Schools should not have to shut down computer labs or libraries for testing.

And there should not be teacher strikes this fall.

Unfortunately, these reasonable expectations will not be met.

The reason for this is at the heart of the recent McCleary ruling, which is largely focused on compensation. While the ruling has issues and some legislators are not happy about it, the reality we are facing is this: well over 11 billion dollars is being invested in our public schools each year with far too little to show for it.

The current “system” for paying our K–12 employees is nonsensical, inequitable, and is not remotely reflective of the needs of our students. It creates inexcusable inequities between districts, limits educational opportunity for thousands of students, and creates annual labor strife.

Without addressing our K–12 compensation structure, investments will continue to follow adults rather than students.

Both political parties took credit for the investments in education, and they will share the blame if all the new money gets vaporized before benefiting any students. The fault is collective. It cuts across party lines and between the state and local districts.

As the new school year begins, the League of Education Voters will be vigilant in following the money that has been invested. We will help communities understand the truth behind local strikes. We hope our work will help more people understand the necessity of fixing the broken way we pay our most important state employees.

And lastly, we hope our Legislature applies the lessons learned from the last two budget cycles and works in a creative, bipartisan way to solve this problem. They have shown that they can do things of this scale that are great for the state of Washington. We hope they remember their responsibility, their duty, and their ability, to do the job.

Thanks for all you do on behalf of Washington’s students.

Posted in: Blog, Closing the Gaps, Funding, Weekly Roundup

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Statement on the Supreme Court’s Order to the State

Today, the Washington State Supreme Court issued their response on the Legislature’s progress in funding basic education.

The Court recognized the Legislature’s record progress in funding an education continuum and called out their work in fully funding transportation, materials, supplies, and operating costs, as well as their progress in partially funding K–3 class-size reductions and full-day kindergarten. The Court also called out the areas where the Legislature did not make significant progress, namely in funding facilities for class-size reduction and full-day kindergarten, compensation for teachers and other school personnel, and reliance on local levies to provide basic education.

Effectively immediately, the Court is fining the state $100,000 a day until a plan to fully fund basic education is implemented, which will go into a special fund reserved for basic education. The Court also encouraged Governor Jay Inslee to call the Legislature back for a special session. (more…)

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Statement on the 2015-2017 Budget

After one long legislative session (followed by three special sessions), Governor Inslee signed Washington’s 2015–2017 state budget into law late in the evening on June 30, averting a government shutdown by less than an hour. An unprecedented series of events ultimately delayed sine die until today, but with the true end of our historically long 2015 legislative session at hand, we take a moment to reflect.

What we see in this budget is a more comprehensive investment in education than at any other time in the state’s history. Through their strong investments in public education across the spectrum, early learning through postsecondary, the Legislature has given all Washington’s students more hope for their future.

The 2015 Legislative SessionThe League of Education Voters has long argued that a child’s education should be a continuum with seamless transitions from early learning through higher education. We have worked with partners around the state in pursuit of that vision, including with the Cradle through College Coalition. It is gratifying to see the Legislature following through with strategies and investments that support students at all ages. (more…)

Posted in: Blog, Closing the Gaps, Early Learning, Funding, Higher Education, Legislative session, LEV News, Press Releases & Statements

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Finding a way forward

Finding a way forward. At the League of Education Voters, we believe a student’s education should be a continuum with seamless transitions. 2014 was a successful year as we worked to improve public education throughout Washington state. We are pleased to release our 2014 annual report, Finding a way forward, and we invite you to read highlights from the past year.

In 2014, we also released our vision, A way forward, which calls for a new definition of basic education that includes early learning, strategic investments in K–12 education, and at least two years of postsecondary education for each Washington student.

While some may suggest that this definition is more than we can afford, we believe that we can’t afford not to make this investment. Too many kids arrive at kindergarten already behind. At the other end of the education spectrum, all evidence points to the need for a postsecondary degree or certificate in preparation for the jobs of today and tomorrow.

A high-quality public education system from early learning through higher education is critical to ensuring a strong home-grown workforce and state economy.

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, we are engaging policymakers, community members, parents, and educators across the state to discuss this vision and how, working together, we can make it a reality.

We invite you to join us.

Read or download our 2014 annual report.

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Fully funding basic education

While the final days of this legislative session are nearing, yesterday leaders from both the House and Senate proposed three plans to reform the ways schools in our state are financed and end an over-reliance on local levies. These plans are in addition to a plan put forward by State Superintendent Randy Dorn earlier this week. Currently, local levy funding is used to pay for basic education costs, including teacher salaries and school supplies; costs that the State Constitution requires be covered by the State. This is major step forward on one of most vexing challenges confronting the state legislature.

We know that teachers make the biggest school-based difference in a child’s education. Effective school leadership plays a significant role in the academic results of students building-wide. Strategic investments in K–12 teacher compensation and professional learning are necessary to close gaps and improve outcomes for all kids. By ensuring the state is fulfilling its responsibility, we will ensure these critical elements are in place to benefit our children. (more…)

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