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Posts Tagged education reform

Activist of the Month: Betsy Cohen

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 February: Betsy Cohen. Read more about Betsy’s experience as an education activist.

Betsy CohenBetsy Cohen testified in Olympia for the first time two weeks ago in favor of the college and career ready diploma (HB 2181). That might come as a surprise to those who know her, since Betsy has been involved in education advocacy for years—since moving to Washington state when her children were young.

Betsy joined her children’s elementary school PTA and, with her background as a law professor, was quickly appointed as their legislative representative. Over the years, she has organized dozens of trips to Olympia and helped others testify (but she never had the opportunity to testify herself). (more…)

Posted in: Activist of the Month, Advocacy and Activism, Blog, Legislative session

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Parent and Family Summit: Access, Equity, & Excellence

The League of Education Voters (LEV) is holding a parent and family summit in Sunnyside, Washington, on Saturday, February 8. We recently sat down with our Yakima-based community organizer Micaela Razo, to learn more about the event. Micaela has been an advocate for parent involvement and education for over 12 years. Micaela resides in Yakima County with her husband, her son, and two daughters. She is also the Region 11 Director for the Washington State PTA and is the PTA President for her local Smith School.

Access, Equity, & Excellence Parent & Family SummitWhat is a parent and family summit, and how did it get started in Sunnyside?
Our parent and family summit is similar to the activist training LEV held in the Puget Sound area on January 25th. Even though LEV has held an activist training near Seattle for the past four years, there is a need for a training summit in the Yakima/Lower Valley region because so many families want to know how they can support their child’s education. This will be LEV’s first training east of the mountains.

What’s the goal of the parent and family summit?
Many of the parents in the Yakima area do not know how to advocate and so they don’t know how to speak up or have their voice be heard. Many of the parents are migrant workers and there are students here who barely speak English and as a result, they have to do twice the amount of work as their non-ELL counterparts because they don’t speak the language well. Both the parents and students need a lot of help and coaching to be prepared to advocate.

The goal of the summit is to empower the parents and students with the right tools so that they have a voice and so that they have the connections to work with the district—and beyond—to improve public education in their schools.

As a community organizer, I support, mentor, and organize parents and community members to give them hope and confidence that they can help their children in school and in their careers. (more…)

Posted in: Advocacy and Activism, Blog, Higher Education, LEV News

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A short session with significant possibilities

Yesterday the legislature reconvened in Olympia for a short session and a number of the League of Education Voters’ (LEV) legislative priorities  are already in play.

The House wasted no time in passing the Washington State DREAM Act (HB 1817), with a bipartisan vote of 71 to 23 on the first day of the 2014 legislative session. All eyes now turn to the Senate on this important bill. LEV partner organization One America has published an excellent fact sheet on the DREAM Act.

Today in the Senate, K–12 leaders will introduce legislation to support the effective implementation of the Teacher/Principal Evaluation Pilot (TPEP) to improve educational outcomes for all students.

This afternoon, our early learning champions will announce legislation to overhaul our state’s early learning system to ensure high-quality, affordable, effective programs are accessible to all Washington families. Early learning is one of the best economic investments we can make for our state. For every dollar spent on early learning there is a return of seven dollars or more, which comes from a variety of savings, including decreased costs for special education, grade repetition, and criminal justice. One of the reasons early learning is such a powerful investment is because the majority of brain development happens before age five. It is critical to provide children with the supports and education they need during their first five years.

To learn more about what happens today and join in the conversation, follow us on Twitter @edvoters. And don’t forget about our weekly online webinar series, Lunchtime LEVinars, which take place during the lunch hour every Thursday of the legislative session. Once a week. 30 minutes. Your legislators. Your issues. Our next webinar features Washington Representative Sharon Tomiko Santos, Chair of the House Education Committee and Co-chair of the Washington State Education Opportunity Gap Accountability and Oversight Committee.

Posted in: Blog, Legislative session

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Olympia’s education efforts: Mid-course correction needed

This post was written by League of Education Voters CEO Chris Korsmo and originally posted on Crosscut on December 3, 2013.

Chris Korsmo, CEO, League of Education VotersThe National Assessment of Educational Progress (NAEP) 2013 test results were heralded recently by many in our state for the increases in fourth and eighth grade math and reading scores.

The results are promising and the progress deserves to be recognized.

Yet when the results were announced, there was little to no mention of the widening achievement gaps among some groups of Washington students.

Specifically, during the past 10 years, the gaps between black/white, Latino/white, and low-income/higher income students widened at all grades and subjects tested.

Clearly, what we are doing for these students is not working. (more…)

Posted in: Blog, Money Matters

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Public charter school trailblazer to visit Seattle October 22

Ember Reichgott JungeRetired Minnesota State Senator Ember Reichgott Junge, author of the country’s first public charter school law, will speak at free evening event.

The League of Education Voters will welcome retired Minnesota State Senator Ember Reichgott Junge, author of the country’s first public charter school law on Thursday, October 22. The free event will take place 7:00–8:30 p.m. at the downtown Seattle Public Library.

Senator Reichgott Junge will read portions of her book, Zero Chance of Passage, which describes her experience creating policy to support innovative high-quality public charter schools in Minnesota. Complimentary copies of Zero Chance of Passage will be distributed at the event.

October 22 will be an important day for public charter school implementation in Washington state. It is the first deadline for a school or nonprofit organization planning to open a charter school to submit a letter of intent to a charter authorizer. The full charter school application is due to a charter authorizer on November 22, 2013.

Charter schools are independent public schools that are allowed to be more innovative and are held accountable for improved student achievement.

What: Free Speaker Series with Retired Minnesota State Senator Ember Reichgott Junge
When: Thursday, October 22, 7-8:30 p.m.
Where: Downtown Seattle Public Library

This event is co-hosted by Democrats for Education Reform and the Washington State Charter Schools Association.

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Chris Korsmo speaking at UW Law conference, Forces of Change: Law, Policy and Equity in Washington State Education

Chris Korsmo, CEO of the League of Education VotersLeague of Education Voters (LEV) CEO Chris Korsmo will be speaking at the University of Washington School of Law tomorrow, October 11, 2013, to give a keynote address at the conference, Forces of Change: Law, Policy and Equity in Washington State Education. Her talk, “Zero tolerance for inequity: Creating the schools our kids deserve,” will provide an overview of the state of public education in Washington today—what we’ve achieved, what needs work, and how LEV is working to improve public education in Washington state for each and every kid.

The conference will feature a day of lively discussions, debate, and learning about school reform in Washington state with policy makers, educators, public education lawyers, and scholars participating in panel discussions and lightning talks.

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Welcoming Gov. Jay Inslee

LEV welcomes Gov. Jay Inslee and congratulates him on his inauguration today. We, too, are “proud to live in a state where education is the paramount duty,” and look forward to working with Gov. Inslee on fulfilling that duty this legislative session and in the coming years of his term as governor.

We applaud his commitment to innovation in Washington State. In education, Inslee’s call to bring “real reforms using proven models” is heartening. Particularly, we appreciate his prioritization of meeting our constitutional requirement to amply, equitably, and sustainably fund education, per the McCleary decision. As we work to meet this requirement, we agree with Gov. Inslee that we should not allow the funding debate to mask issues in our education system that demand innovation and reform.

We appreciate Gov. Inslee’s calls for a focus on STEM education, investments in quality early learning, aligning the education system from early learning through college, improving and expanding teacher and principal evaluations, and aligning what is taught in schools to help our students get the jobs of the 21st century.

We look forward to working with Gov. Inslee on these issues as we push to support a world-class education system for all of our state’s students.

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Teacher group releases recommendations for teacher evaluations

A new report from teachers in Los Angeles’ school district titled Breaking the Stalemate (PDF) tackles teacher evaluations head-on. These teachers provide their suggestions for how to evaluate their colleagues and themselves, and they talk about the goals of these recommendations.

Their overall recommendations are to have evaluations based:

  • 50 percent on instruction planning, reflection and goals – provide clear, detailed rubrics with research-based standards administrators and peers can use evaluate how teachers plan and implement their lessons, and include portfolios;
  • 40 percent on student growth measures – half of these measures should be from state standardized test, the other half should be from locally chosen evaluations;
  • 10 percent on ways the teachers strengthen their communities – using student surveys, peer evaluations and self-reflection, teachers should be able to showcase their value to the community.

The authors emphasize the importance for appropriate training for all teachers and observers. They also highlight using local measures to evaluate teachers and student progress, arguing that the flexibility will allow them to tailor their students’ needs and prioritize their community’s values. In addition, they propose introducing a parent school satisfaction survey to regularly collect feedback from parents on how they feel about the performance of their students schools.

Read all of their recommendations in the report here (PDF).

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Why I like A+ Washington: A teacher's perspective

This opinion piece was written by Kristin Bailey-Fogarty and originally published in Publicola. She is a Seattle teacher, a LEV board member and a member of Teacher’s United. To learn more about the A+ Washington plan, you can visit their website.

This summer, I met with other educators from across the state to offer feedback on a beast of a document. We spent hours discussing and critiquing what is now the A+ Washington plan while facilitators recorded our comments.

The plan was crafted by the Excellent Schools Now Coalition—the League of Education Voters, Partnership for Learning, Stand for Children, and Teachers United, as well as parents, teachers, students, community members and business leaders who volunteered to provide feedback as the document was drafted and revised.

Everyone involved believes that providing all students the opportunity to succeed in work and life requires new ideas and practices that promote flexibility in our education system. A+ Washington is available on the coalition’s Website.

I don’t like every single thing in the plan, but I don’t need to. I don’t need to agree with every part of something in order for it to be the right direction for education in our state. When I read it, I read it as a classroom teacher (one with lots of seniority who teaches a tested subject), as someone who wants my daughters to have a great public education and as someone who wants the children of complete strangers to have a great education. I also read it as a taxpayer, one who is willing to pay more taxes if
that money is efficiently spent.

Read all she has to say about the plan here.

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Report finds that extended learning time successful when coupled with other changes

Education Sector updated its brief on extended learning time, with similar conclusions — extra time on its own doesn’t necessarily increase student achievement, but when paired with other strategies can increase student learning.

The report, titled Off the Clock: What More Time Can (and Can’t) Do for School Turnarounds, points to examples like Massachusetts, where many schools have seen positive change.

One such example is Matthew J. Kuss Middle School in Fall River. Once designated as “chronically under-performing,” the school is now a success story.

“Since adopting an added-time schedule in 2006, Kuss gives all its students 30 percent more time in school (including on Saturdays) and provides additional development time for teachers, almost all of whom have increased their work hours: instructors now have nine individual planning periods, a grade-level meeting, and at least one curriculum meeting each week.”

The report also finds that the majority of ELT schools are charter schools:

“A look at schools currently using ELT bears this out. Roughly 1,000 public schools in the nation are now operating with extended schedules, according to the National Center on Time and Learning (NCTL), meaning that they have added at least 30 minutes to their schedules each day. Although they include a number of traditional public schools, more than 60 percent of them are charter schools. Most serve high percentages of poor and minority students and English-language learners. And many reflect the best of what ELT can be: their vision is not limited to time, and they have the capacity and support to make that vision work.”

You can read the full report here.

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