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Students Must Be Ready for What Comes Next

Lisa Jiménez - League of Education VotersBy Lisabeth Jiménez
Guest Blogger

I am currently a sophomore at Columbia Basin College, where I major in political science with a minor in education. I attended two separate high schools before graduating in 2015: Delta High School, the first STEM high school in Washington, for 9th through 10th grade, and then I transferred to Pasco Senior High School to participate in Running Start, a program that allows students in the 11th and 12th grade to attend college courses to earn an Associate in Arts degree upon graduation from high school.

In high school I was a C/D average student. A few Bs made an appearance from time to time but not consistently, and it wasn’t from a lack of trying. My friends were A+ students, always making the honor roll, and they didn’t have to try. I would stay up till 4 o’clock in the morning, sometimes pulling all-nighters to finish assignments and group projects because of short deadlines and multiple assignments coming due at the same time. My friends’ teachers gave them small assignments and did not thoroughly check them to see if they were finished. Because of pre-conceived expectations, if their teachers saw writing on the papers turned in, they would give my friends an A for assignments because they were “completed.” My friends did not know how to find the slope of a y-intercept, learn the stages of mitosis, or master writing an analysis essay, but I did.

When it came to state testing, the teachers at Delta were committed to making sure we all passed because they wanted to see us walk across the graduation stage in the spring. I studied night and day for these exams, while some of my friends asked their parents to opt them out of the testing. I graduated with a 2.45 grade point average, passed all my state exams, and earned 24 high school credits and 33 college credits. My friends who did not take the tests graduated with a 4.0 average, 22 high school credits, and opted out of all the state exams because they simply did not want to take them. They had the opportunity to apply to any college they wished because of their grade point average, but my GPA did not provide the same opportunity.

They applied to universities and local colleges, and were accepted. The next step was to take their placement tests to determine which courses they would be eligible to take. Unfortunately, they received low test scores that placed them at the beginning of a long road of remedial college courses. How could a 4.0 student not be college ready? When I took my placement tests for Running Start, I placed right at the English 101/102 level and Math 99. I, a 2.45 GPA graduate and a C/D average student, was able to take college courses while still in high school.

Grades should not be the only thing to determine whether a student is college ready, because they are just a letter that some teachers give if the student behaves well.  State exams were not created only to burden students, as some tend to believe. The exams are there to ensure we are ready for the next step in our lives. After doing the required work in high school, I was able to pass all my state exams. I had to take a year off to work to save money for college, and I’m now more than halfway finished with my Bachelor’s degree.

Posted in: Blog, Career and College Ready Diploma, Higher Education

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Korsmo’s Weekly Roundup: Quiet on the Western Front?

Chris Korsmo

Whenever the house goes quiet, the hair on the back of my neck goes up and my Spidey senses ask: what are they up to? In my case, “they” would be the neighborhood boys who congregate in the basement. In the context of the legislature, it’s, well… the legislature. It might seem like all’s quiet on the western front, but we know better.

Some news to get you caught up:

A few stories for Teacher Appreciation Week:

Other morsels to chew on:

And finally, a couple items we’ve been working on here at LEV:

Until the quiet ends, thanks for all you do on behalf of Washington’s kids. And Happy Cinco de Mayo.

Chris

 

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Posted in: Blog, Funding, Teacher Prep, Weekly Roundup

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Korsmo’s Weekly Roundup: March Madness

Chris Korsmo

It’s that time – March Madness culminates in the crowning of a champ. Go Dawgs!

The Zags’ road to a championship notwithstanding, then there were three. State budgets that is. A week after the Senate put forward their $43 billion spending plan, the House has issued their $44.9 B budget. The plans differ in a couple of key ways: the obvious difference in size and how to pay for things. With many expecting legislative overtime, the path to agreement is almost always compromise, something that did not go unnoticed by OSPI chief Chris Reykdal. One thing is for sure, our kids need a resolution that helps them succeed. And that doesn’t mean cutting back on out of school programs and supports like the POTUS’ “skinny” budget does. I wonder if the skinny budget isn’t just “hangry.”

One thing not included in the House budget: alternatives to the state exams currently required to graduate. That’s because the House removes the requirement for the tests – and therefore their alternatives. I think you know how I feel. Others agree.

In other news:

  • Changes to the FAFSA – financial aid forms for college – are making life difficult for some.
  • Brookings breaks down the racial disparities in discipline.
  • What do college and preschool have in common? It’s the Benjamins.
  • I think this is kind of harsh. But then I’m not a psychologist.

Before we go, I want to send a huge thank you to all who joined us for the LEV breakfast yesterday. The messages of hope and love for their work came through loud and clear from Teachers of the Year Kendra Yamamoto and Elizabeth Loftus! Many thanks to them for their wonderful insights – and for their leadership in their regions.

And as always, many thanks to you for the work you do to support Washington’s kids!

Chris

 

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Posted in: Blog, Career and College Ready Diploma, Early Learning, Funding, Higher Education, School Discipline, Weekly Roundup

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Chris Korsmo: My Ed Path

Chris Korsmo

When I reflect back on my education, it becomes clear pretty quickly that there was not one big “aha” moment. I didn’t just wake up one morning and was suddenly enlightened about everything on the face of the earth. And we haven’t yet figured out how to download information directly into our brains, like Carrie Anne Moss suddenly learning how to fly that helicopter. Everything I learned built on what I had learned previously. Graduation requirements at my high school were aligned to college-going. While rigorous, those requirements allowed for the arts. Seven years of marching band made me who I am today. All the stories about band camp are true.

This is why our vision at the League of Education Voters is for every student in Washington state to have access to an excellent public education – from early learning through higher education – that provides the opportunity for success. And this is why LEV is a proud member of the Cradle Through College Coalition.

To that end, during the 2017 legislative session, LEV is advocating for:

  • Additional funding for increased access and participation in high-quality early learning programs across the state
  • A system that attracts, retains, and supports qualified and effective educators, which includes teachers, para-educators and principals, while addressing needs for equitable access to quality instruction
  • Programs and funding targeted toward students who need it most, providing both academic and non-academic supports for students to improve outcomes and make progress in closing the opportunity and achievement gaps
  • An accountability system that provides transparency for families on school budgets and student outcomes, measures student and school success meaningfully, and provides effective state- and district-level supports for struggling schools
  • Additional funding to serve all students eligible for the State Need Grant

Here’s what we know about our kids: They all have assets. Every one of them has talent. They are not widgets. They want to know that what they’re learning has meaning. And they want you to know their names. For all the difficulty we ascribe to changing education policy, it’s really pretty simple:

  • Foundational skills that transfer with them to careers
  • Access to information about possible career choices
  • Individualization
  • Applied learning or relevance
  • And adults who care about them

Speaking of caring adults, none of my success would have been possible without great teachers. Research consistently shows that a great teacher has the single biggest impact on whether a student will succeed. I know this from personal experience, and I thought you might appreciate these photos from my education path:

League of Education Voters CEO Chris Korsmo's education path

Spring Day at Beloit College was a huge day of fun. There were no classes, and air band contests were the order of the day. Guess which band we were and who I was? I believe the year was 1983. I’m holding a toilet brush, in case you’re curious. For the record, the brush was brand-new.

I couldn’t have made it to Beloit without support from my favorite teacher, Sue Remley. I had her twice for math in high school and she took me under her wing. I could tell she was paying attention, which is why I did not want to let her down.

Her expectation for me was a motivating factor in applying to and going to college, because she let me know when the SATs and ACTs were. She even asked me who I was sending them to. She had 150 kids a day, in six or seven classes. And she knew everybody. I wasn’t the only person she was talking to. I wasn’t the super special kid. Everybody was super special. And that was cool.

Wouldn’t it be great if every student had a story about a favorite teacher, and every student had access to great teachers from early learning through higher education to help them along their education path? Call your legislators and encourage them to support the full education continuum at 1-800-562-6000. If you need help finding your legislators, just click here.

 

#MyEdPath

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

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Korsmo’s Weekly Roundup: Sunny Skies for Now

Chris Korsmo

You ever play those meeting “icebreaker” games where you have to indicate which tree you’d be, or what animal you were in a past life? If the legislature were a condiment, what would it be? My vote this week is ghost pepper sauce. Discuss.

Money, Money, Money, Money. Money! When last we met we shared the news that the legislature had averted multiple local education funding crises by passing an extension of the levy cliff. This was welcome news for many, even as attention quickly turned to the bigger issue, McCleary. The good news? The economic forecast is sunny. The bad news? Well, for now, there really isn’t any. Yes, the two sides might bicker from time to time and we don’t yet have a final plan to fund, but we will. Our aim is to make sure more of the resources intended for kids who need something more or different – see gaps diatribe below – actually get those resources. Even while we build a compensation system that our education professionals find both fair and energizing.

Next week we’ll get our first look at how the Senate will address education funding when they release their budget. Expect the House version the week after. Here’s how things stack up so far.

Testing Testing: The state’s long love affair with the testing debate will air in all its glory next week when Senate Education takes up HB 1046, the House bill that “delinks” passing the state’s math, English language arts and science exams from high school graduation. Superintendent Reykdal was asked about it recently and spoke in support of removing the requirements. We’ve long taken a different position, that delinking the exams makes it difficult to know whether they’re taken seriously. As the only consistent statewide measures of proficiency, we need good – comparable – data that tells us how our students are doing and importantly, how students fare by groups. We’ve long said we can’t close gaps we can’t see. Between the national moves to reduce federal oversight – or even expectations – and the state wanting to no longer (accurately) capture this information, our kids caught in the opportunity and achievement gaps will be invisible. And, sadly, kids who think they’re college material because they can pass the high school courses that meet the graduation requirements will often find out that they are in fact, NOT ready for prime time. For a state with the kind of student academic performance we have – only 31% of our kids get a degree or certificate from a two- or four-year college – this is a major step backward. Proponents will say that kids are the only ones being held accountable for proficiency – the graduation requirements are high stakes exit exams. It’s true our system is not a bastion of accountability. But eliminating the little bit that we have will only hide the gaps, mislead our kids, and drive our degree completion rates in the wrong direction. (How do I really feel?)

While we’re talking about money, the President’s budget was released this week and it is not a good time to be poor, or a first-generation college student, or a kid in after school programs. The good news here is that a President’s budget is typically just a conversation starter. And, by the looks of it, everybody’s talking.

Light Reading:

  • Sometimes a walk in the woods really pays
  • Speaking of gems, there’s one right in our backyard.
  • More thinking on the causes and impacts of the achievement gap.

As always, thank you for all you do on behalf of our kids. Happy Saint Paddy’s Day!

Chris

 

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Posted in: Blog, Career and College Ready Diploma, Closing the Gaps, Funding, Legislative session, Weekly Roundup

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LEV Interviews State Superintendent Chris Reykdal About His First 100 Days

OSPI Chris Reykdal - League of Education VotersLeague of Education Voters Communications Director Arik Korman sat down with Superintendent of Public Instruction Chris Reykdal to discuss the K-12 education funding plans on the table, how to close the opportunity and achievement gaps, and how to create a statewide system of career technical education.

 

Listen here:


 

Listen to Governor Jay Inslee talk about his 2017 state budget

Listen to Senator Christine Rolfes talk about the Education Funding Task Force

Listen to Rep. Ruth Kagi talk about the Governor’s Blue Ribbon Commission on Children and Families

Listen to Washington state Teachers of the Year talk about teaching philosophy, classroom accomplishments and education priorities

Posted in: Career and College Ready Diploma, Career Technical Education, Closing the Gaps, ESSA, Funding, Higher Education, Legislative session, Podcast

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Korsmo’s Weekly Roundup: We’ve Made Progress on Education Funding

Chris Korsmo

Well, that didn’t take long.

If you like your politics the same way you like your food – not to touch under any circumstances – then this was your week. Even as we’re going to press, the Senate Democrats are pursuing a floor takeover through parliamentary procedures. The podium grab is possible because the Senate Republicans are down a few men – you may have heard that the Senator Dansel has moved on to the Department of Agriculture and Senator Erickson is advising the EPA (apparently, he won’t be publishing studies on the website, or blogging about the effects of global warming). Dansel has left office, leaving an open seat, while Erickson is holding down two jobs for the time being and racking up frequent flyer miles. Should they prevail and are actually able to take action on the floor, the Senate Dems are looking to pass the levy cliff extension bill – a measure that passed the House earlier this week. The bill was also put on the Senate Ways and Means calendar for this coming Monday – a show of good faith or a pre-emptive maneuver to blunt the necessity of the take over? Oh, cynics. Stop it. (Little known fact about how I think about the word pre-emptive: think Carrie Underwood)

Meanwhile, progress is being made. Earlier this afternoon, Senate Republicans unveiled their education plan. The proposal could be heard early next week and includes a change to the way we allocate funds – from a focus on salaries and staffing to a student-centered approach – and doubles the resources into Career and Technical Education, among other things. There’s much to appreciate in this plan, which includes a bump in pay for starting teachers. You can find a side-by-side of the Senate proposal with Governor Inslee’s on our website here.  Which, by the way is where you can find our bill tracker.

Theme of the week: there are quite a few bills that either change, eliminate or de-link our assessment requirements for high school graduation. Coupled with moves to reduce the high school graduation requirements, it raises concerns that we’re watering down our preparation and expectation of our kids at exactly the wrong time.

In other news:

Have a wonderful weekend. And happy Lunar New Year. Thanks for all you do for Washington’s kids.

Chris

Posted in: Blog, Career and College Ready Diploma, Career Technical Education, Funding, Legislative session, Side-by-Side Comparisons, Weekly Roundup

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State Board of Education must become a leading voice for all students

The Washington State Board of Education today fell short of setting a clear path for our state toward all students graduating high school prepared for their next step in life.

The State Board of Education’s leadership has been essential in trying to realize their own vision of “a high quality education system that prepares all students for college, career, and life.” Nine years ago, they recommended that the state update high school graduation requirements to 24 credits, and they saw that recommendation to fruition in 2014 despite opposition and numerous obstacles along the way.

Unfortunately, the State Board made no progress today toward moving the system forward in preparing all students for college, career, and life. They took an “equal impact” approach on setting the English Language Arts (ELA) cut score. Due to poor-quality data, the State Board was unable to take an “equal impact” approach in setting the score for Math, so they set a correlating score based on the ELA cut score. This approach maintains the status quo without setting any specific date by which the cut score would be set at a college and career ready level or a plan to get there.

The League of Education Voters acknowledges the complexity of setting graduation cut scores. We also believe that decisions based on maintaining an “equal impact” without any date or plan to get to the goal of college and career readiness for all students is not good enough for our students, nor is it leading with a sense of urgency for the approximately 50 percent of high school graduates who enter postsecondary in remedial courses.

A transition period is understandable. A transition period with no end date or specific plan does not serve our students’ best interests, nor does it display any urgency for closing our state’s growing achievement and opportunity gaps.

Earlier this summer, we called on the State Board again to hold our system to a higher standard. We asked that they set the graduation cut score at the level of college and career readiness—level 3—in order to bring our state closer to their vision, or at least set a date for when this goal might be achieved. They started to do so in a draft position statement but postponed that action and any related discussion until the September meeting.

We look to the State Board to once again to become a leading voice for all students, and the League of Education Voters is committed to working with them and others going forward to ensure that the State Board achieves its vision of preparing all students for college, career, and life.

Posted in: Blog, Career and College Ready Diploma, Closing the Gaps, LEV News, Press Releases & Statements

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Emphasizing an education continuum

In 2014, after eight long years of work, Washington state updated its high school graduation requirements. The League of Education Voters worked with partners and community members to pass this 24-credit College and Career Ready Diploma.

Now the work begins for many school districts in implementing the new diploma. However, a number of districts are ahead of the game, and some have been for many years.

West Valley High School logoOne such school district is West Valley, in the Yakima area. West Valley began requiring 24 credits for high school graduation beginning in the 2001–2002 school year, when they increased their English language and social studies requirements. The second phase of the transition to a College and Career Ready Diploma happened in the 2006–2007 school year, when the district increased their math and science requirements. In 2013, more than 80 percent of their seniors graduated from high school, and of those who graduated, 67 percent continued onto college. (more…)

Posted in: Blog, Career and College Ready Diploma, Closing the Gaps, Higher Education

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Activist of the Month: Quontica and Marlando Sparks

Quontica & Marlando SparksAt 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 October: Quontica and Marlando Sparks. Read more about their experience advocating for parent engagement and their plans to open a public charter school for at-risk youth in Pasco.

Quontica and Marlando Sparks first testified about education in Washington state this past April, when they spoke about the impact of school discipline on families they worked with. But their involvement in education advocacy started much earlier. (more…)

Posted in: Activist of the Month, Advocacy and Activism, Blog, Career and College Ready Diploma, Closing the Gaps, LEV News, School Discipline

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