Posts Tagged ELL

Ask a Teacher on the WA Teacher Advisory Council

2015 Washington state Teacher of the Year Lyon Terry - League of Education VotersBy Lyon Terry, 2015 Teacher of the Year
Guest Blogger

As the 2015 Washington state Teacher of the Year, I am often called to be a speaker, panelist, story-teller, spokesperson and more. But I am far from the only teacher who understands what works in education. To improve our schools, we must involve the people doing the work—the teachers.

I remember speaking in front of six hundred education advocates in a windowless room at the Seatac DoubleTree. The people there wanted to support kids and improve education, and I was glad to be called. But I was the only teacher in the room. How was this audience going to make change to schools without talking to the people who teach the kids?

Education is at a crossroads in our state right now. We must ask teachers for solutions. Teachers should be in every education conversation. Yet, we are often not consulted.

Washington state must increase funding for education by billions over the next two years to satisfy the McCleary Decision. What is needed? Why is it needed? Ask teachers. They will tell you.

Sure, we must increase salaries, particularly for beginning teachers, but teachers are not in the profession for the money. Teachers know there are many other needs. The following teachers are all award-winning educators in the WA Teacher Advisory Council Network. You can search for any education issue there and even use it to gain access to classrooms. We want you to see what is needed. Here are some of the issues that match our teachers’ expertise:

Michael Werner in Granite Falls or Spencer Martin in Sunnyside can tell about the funding needed for their amazing Career and Technical Education Programs.

Ask Katie Brown in Bellingham, Alisa Louie in Kent, or Jose Corona in Yakima about the needs of students who are learning English for the first time.

Have questions about special education? Ask Elizabeth Loftus in Oak Harbor or Theodore Mack in Moses Lake.

Do you want to know solutions for funding our massive teacher shortage? Ask Bethany Rivard in Vancouver, Dave Gammon in Spokane, or Nathan Bowling in Tacoma.

What about the importance of social and emotional learning? Ask Theresa Holland-Schmid on the Kitsap Peninsula or Lynne Olmos in Mossyrock. They can also bend your ear about the importance of arts integration.

Teachers Kendra Yamamoto in Vancouver and Tim Larson in Odessa can articulate the incredible importance of early learning.

Many teachers know what is needed to support science, technology, engineering, arts and math (STEAM).  Ask Barney Peterson in Everett, Jeff Wehr in Odessa, Jeff Charboneau in Zillah, John Gallagher in Port Angeles, or Camille Jones in Quincy if you are interested.

How can we improve parent engagement? Ask Kimberly Witte in Bremerton or Brian Sites in Richland.

Do you care about dual credit, advanced placement, and access for all? Ask Nathan Bowling in Tacoma or Shari Conditt in Woodland.

I could go on and on. I love knowing these teachers. They are all Teachers of the Year, recognized by their districts, ESDs, and the state as experts in the field; they know what our students and schools need to be successful, to thrive. They are members of the WA Teacher Advisory Council with the mission to inform education decisions and influence policy, promoting equity and excellence for all.

Let them rise to their mission. If you have an education question, then please, talk to an accomplished educator. And listen. #askateacher


Lyon Terry teaches 4th grade at Lawton Elementary School in the Seattle Public Schools. He is a National Board Certified teacher with 20 years of experience. Every day he plays guitar and sings with his students. You can find him on Twitter @lyonterry or email:




Posted in: Blog, Career Technical Education, Early Learning, Funding, STEM, Teacher Prep

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Community Support for English Language Learners

By Joyce Yee, LEV Community Organizer

Vietnamese Friendship Association - League of Education VotersThe Vietnamese Friendship Association (VFA) offers after school and Saturday school programs to all English Language Learner (ELL) students who attend the Seattle World School in the Seattle school district.

Some unique challenges that ELL students face to being successful and self-sufficient are that their families face language barriers, poverty and discrimination, and are unable to help them be successful at school. ELL students tend to be one or more years behind their native English speaking peers, and only half graduate from high school, compared to the state average of 80%.

ELL students often come to the U.S. with little formal education as teens, and only have a few years to learn English and finish high school successfully. VFA served 239 students in their youth programs, ages 11 – 20: 98% were low-income; 46% were female and 54% male; 40% from Africa, 32% Asia, 26% South America, 2% Europe and the Middle East. Youth who participated in VFA’s programs achieved the equivalent of half a grade higher in math and reading by the end of the school year, compared to their peers. 78% of youth strengthened skills and assets that support positive social development.

VFA works in partnership with the Seattle World School to connect students to their programs through recruitment on their end and referrals by staff at the school. The school offers office and classroom space for VFA to offer after-school programs, plus staff referrals.

VFA offers after school and Saturday programming through strong partnerships with community based organizations including Coyote Central, Refugee Women’s Alliance, Jack Straw, Bike Works, and Neighborhood House. The other organizations provide programming, and VFA offers its expertise on how to work effectively with ELL students and families. In many of their programs, components are built in to offer both students and their parents/guardians learning opportunities.

VFA’s after-school programs include academic support, enrichment classes and job readiness. They offer academic support through their English/Homework help group and one-on-one tutoring. Enrichment classes include culinary, woodworking, and music. Jack Straw’s Guitar class meets twice a week to work on basic guitar skills. Students can also do service learning; they are assigned to teams that identify a community need that they would like to work on.

The Youth Job Readiness Training program teaches students skills such as resume preparation, interviewing, how to handle workplace conflicts, plus internship opportunities. It is offered to 20 students between 15 and 20 years old. While students learn about academics and career preparation, parents learn skills to support their students in being successful. A family engagement coordinator teaches parents how to navigate K-12 school systems and how to seek financial aid for their children to attend college. VFA holds regular family engagement meetings as part of the Job Readiness program for students only, guardians only, and also offers meetings that bring together both students and guardians.

The Saturday school focus is being revised to offer academic and enrichment activities. Academics include English 101 with content on math, reading, healthy relationships, and test prep for the World Language test so that ELL students can take the language proficiency test and earn elective credits for their language ability. The healthy relationship section teaches both students and parents through role playing how both can understand each other better, such as the challenges facing bilingual students versus parent expectations for them. A culinary series is also offered concurrently, where participants learn culinary skills through meal prep, cooking, and serving meals to Saturday school attendees. While students are learning, their parent or other adults in the household can take classes in English as a second language, and learn computer skills.

Over time, as families and their students get to know VFA through activities, they build a strong sense of community with each other. Parents have offered to prepare food for their group meetings for parents/guardians, and students who have completed the Saturday classes come back to volunteer.

Shouldn’t programs like the VFA’s be part of basic education?



Read LEV’s blog post on Student Supports, an Integral Component of Basic Education

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

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A Way Forward: We can and must do better for Washington’s students

A child’s education should be a continuum with seamless transitions from early learning through postsecondary education. The League of Education Voters (LEV) is pleased to release its vision for an expanded definition of basic education.

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

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

A Way Forward

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

Posted in: Career and College Ready Diploma, Closing the Gaps, Early Learning, Featured, Funding, Higher Education, LEV News, Uncategorized

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Paving the way toward greater parent engagement

Marta Burnet

Marta Burnet

By Marta Burnet

How can I help my child do better in school?

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

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

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

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


Posted in: Advocacy and Activism, Blog, Closing the Gaps

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Parent engagement is key

Maria EstradaThe League of Education Voters’ September Activist of the Month, Maria Estrada, submitted a guest op-ed to the Seattle Times that was published this morning: “New graduation rules will help all parents get more involved.”

An excerpt from the op-ed is below:

Parent engagement is key to helping students make good decisions about their future and successfully achieve their dreams, particularly during students’ high school experiences.

But for me, parent engagement isn’t just about what I can do for my daughter. It’s also about what I can do to benefit all children.

My daughter Paulina and I moved to Washington from Mexico a few years ago. The language barrier made it difficult for me to understand how the school system worked or what classes my daughter was enrolled in.

Parents need to be engaged, but they also need accessible information about their child’s education. From personal experience, I can tell you that remaining engaged in your child’s education isn’t possible when you’re struggling to understand complex, bureaucratic information in a foreign language.

Read the entire article on the Seattle Times website.

Posted in: Advocacy and Activism, Blog, Career and College Ready Diploma, LEV News

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Activist of the Month: Maria Estrada

Maria Estrada testifies in Olympia on the new discipline law in April 2014.

Maria Estrada testifies in Olympia on the new discipline law in April 2014.

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 September: Maria Estrada. Read more about her experience as an advocate for all kids, including her daughter, Paulina Zepeda (our March 2014 Activist of the Month).

Maria Estrada believes in parent engagement. She believes in it so strongly that she’s worked with Donald Bender, Migrant Academic Service Coordinator for ESD 105, to write a series of curricula on parent engagement. But it’s one thing to write curricula and another entirely to take action on it. Maria testified at the public hearing at the State Board of Education meeting in Spokane in July on that very topic.

Maria says that parent engagement is key to student success. “When parents are engaged, they can help their children make decisions about their future and successfully achieve their dreams. Parents should trust their children and love them, of course, but they also need to stay engaged. In doing that, they not only help their own children, they help all children.” (more…)

Posted in: Activist of the Month, Advocacy and Activism, Closing the Gaps, LEV News

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Study: Bilingualism Can Ease Poverty's Effects

A soon to be published study shows that bilingualism is an asset for students, including those who live in poverty.

The study found that though the bilingual students from low-income homes knew fewer vocabulary words than their monolingual peers, their ability to focus and remain on-task despite distractions was much higher. The study also found that bilingual children had better memory recall and visual processing skills.

Authors suggest that this study not only adds to the growing evidence that bilingualism is an asset to students, but that teaching a second language may be part of effective interventions for students in poverty.

“This is the first study to show that, although they may face linguistic challenges, minority bilingual children from low-income families demonstrate important strengths in other cognitive domains,” study author Engel de Abreu said in a news release.

Read the full, unedited manuscript of the study here (PDF).

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Live Blogging: Sup. Bergeson Proposal for Student Support

Sup. Terry Bergeson Proposal for Student Support and System Foundations

Dr. Bergeson was back for the final proposal of the day, which focused on supports for specific groups of students, namely: struggling students, English language learners, guidance/advisory/learning support, career/technical education, and college-prep/highly capable students. In the beginning of the end, Dr. Bergeson spoke to struggling students and ELLs, looking to increase funding for both — namely increase staff ratios and decrease class sizes. See the jump for further details. After the 10 minute break, we’ll tackle the remaining groups.

Struggling Students

Currently, the Learning Assistance Program allocates 3.46 staff per 1,000 low-income students, although no funds are set aside for materials. Dr. Bergeson recommends revised LAP allocations to include class size reductions for severe poverty, teachers for small group tutoring, teachers for intensive tutoring, program support, professional development for teachers, and instructional materials.

Rep. Priest asked the Task Force be mindful how decreasing class sizes inside and outside of LAP impacts K-12 funding.

Chairman Grimm again asked about the bottom line, and brought up the issue of LAP being a statutory program. According to Jennifer Priddy (OSPI), to implement the expanded LAP, it would cost roughly $420 million, nearly four times its current cost — some of which Ms. Priddy attributed to the inadequate base schools are working with now. This was a real WOW moment.

Rep. Hunter asked for clarification on the model, whether we would be allocating teachers based on LAP-eligible students or identifying students who would benefit from small-group instruction and funding those students. OSPI’s model is the former.

English Language Learners

Current allocation is $904 per ELL student, generating one teacher per 75 students. In Spokane, the district foots nearly two-thirds of the bill for its ELL program ($1.63 million of $2.475 million) and is achieving results, supporting the case that an increase in dollars can lead to results.

OSPI’s allocation proposal includes smaller class sizes for ELLs, floor funding for districts with few ELLs, high ELL/multiple language enhancement, middle/high school enhancement, professional development for staff, and instructional materials and assessments.

Rep. Priest asked about the time needed for professional development. In the proposal, PD days were set aside for specific ELL training for staff, however, these days would be phased out if 10 more PD days were added to the academic calendar.

Rep. Hunter expressed concern over the trade-off variables between the different programs and basic education overall (eg. having more of X, but not if Y is implemented).

We’ll be back after the break…

Posted in: Blog, Closing the Gaps, Events, Funding

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