Posts Tagged student supports

Tools for Teachers to Help Our Kids with Trauma

By Arik Korman, League of Education Voters Communications Director

Last month’s Resiliency Conference brought together about 500 teachers, administrators, and parents at the Edward D. Hansen Conference Center at Angel of the Winds Arena in Everett to learn how to better support children who have experienced trauma.

Dr. Nadine Burke Harris - League of Education Voters

Dr. Nadine Burke Harris

Dr. Nadine Burke Harris, a national expert on the health effects of Adverse Childhood Experiences (ACEs), kicked off day one of the two-day gathering with a moving keynote presentation. Dr. Burke Harris pointed out the sobering fact that that one in eight individuals have experienced four or more ACEs, and 35 million children have ACEs right now.

ACEs are related to our flight-or-flight response. When we experience trauma, our body releases adrenaline and cortisol, which inhibits our brain’s pre-frontal cortex (the area responsible for thinking) and gets us amped up. This stress response can help us avoid immediate danger, like running into a grizzly bear in the woods, but becomes problematic when the threat happens over and over again, like in an abusive home or if there are multiple changes in caregivers.


Posted in: Closing the Gaps

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Positive School Climate in Action at New Horizons High School

By Kelly Munn, League of Education Voters State Field Director

New Horizons Group Photo - League of Education VotersThere are schools all across this state that are making dreams come true for their students.

I had the opportunity to visit one of these schools.

New Horizons is an alternative school in Pasco. They serve juniors and seniors who are on a different journey towards graduation, perhaps a slower journey, perhaps a more thoughtful journey, perhaps more zig and zag, alternative.

The students come from all kinds of backgrounds, but what they have in common is resilience, life experiences that have matured them, and despite so many obstacles, they are determined to meet their life goals. This school is helping to get them there.

The staff surrounds the students with a sense of belonging, a sense that they contribute to their education community, that each of them matters.


Posted in: Closing the Gaps

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Korsmo’s Weekly Roundup: Hitting the Ground Running


Chris Korsmo

Chris Korsmo

It’s so good to be back with you! After a three month sabbatical, I’m renewed and refreshed, ready to hit the ground running.

Sadly it’s hard to know where to begin when so much promise, talent and opportunity came to an end – again – in a school in Florida. Another mass shooting, another school, another day of horror and grief. I have a sixth grader and a spouse who’s an elementary school principal. I know this is my worst fear.  I also know this has to stop. I feel like my head will explode if one more person says we need a national conversation about gun violence. It feels like we have that conversation many times a year – after another incidence of gun violence. Thoughts and prayers? Pray for the courage it takes to do the right thing. And think when you fill out your ballot.

As for what we can do for kids, if we are serious about our kids’ mental, physical and social well-being, there are some school staffing ratios that should look dramatically different. Among other things.


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2018 Legislative Priority: Student Supports

By League of Education Voters Policy Team

Student Supports - League of Education VotersStudents learn most effectively when their school feels safe, inclusive, supportive, and respectful. (1)

Closing opportunity and achievement gaps and improving student outcomes relies on our ability to create positive school climates for every student.


Creating positive school climates and providing student supports can mitigate the impact of trauma (2), mental health needs (3), and other non-academic factors that affect a student’s ability to engage in learning (4). Washington state has embarked upon some critical work to create positive school climates. The Educational Opportunity Gap Oversight and Accountability Committee (EOGOAC) spearheaded a number of reforms, most recently with the passage of HB 1541 that continued student discipline reform and created the Washington Integrated Student Supports Protocol (5). The state also convened a workgroup to develop benchmarks for Social-Emotional Learning (6) for district use. We can enhance these and other efforts to deliver services to students and enable districts and schools to create welcoming and supportive environments for every student.



Posted in: Closing the Gaps

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Resources from the 2017 Parent & Community Training

League of Education Voters 2017 Puget Sound Activist TrainingThank you to everyone who attended LEV’s 7th Annual Parent & Community Training!

Here are presentations from the breakout workshops:

Update – School Discipline

Student Weighted Formula

Summer Splash Reading Literacy Program

Tips and Resources for Students with Special Needs


Education Advocacy for Black Students - League of Education Voters

From the keynote panel on Education Advocacy for Black Students: “We’ve had the research that tells us how to engage students of color and help them succeed. We just need to put it into practice.”

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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: Closing the Gaps

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Korsmo’s Weekly Roundup: Funding Plans Aplenty

Chris Korsmo

A big hello dedicated readers, it’s that time again. On Sunday two teams will line up and go at it for a championship. Yes! It’s Puppy Bowl XIII!!! The annual festival of cuteness featuring puppies “playing football.” And as if your heart couldn’t take any more, not one single little drop, they’re all – ALL! – up for adoption. OMG Becky look at that pup! This year’s event will feature special needs puppies – quick, someone tell Betsy DeVos! – including the ironically named “Lucky,” who has three legs. So if you grow tired of Super Bowl ads, or looking at the Patriots Coach who shall not be named, you have alternatives.

And now, the news:

The aforementioned Secretary of Ed nominee, Betsy DeVos, lost two key republican votes this week when Senators Murkowski (AK) and Collins (ME) both announced they would vote against her confirmation – despite voting to pass the confirmation out of the Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP). Her support for vouchers and her lack of experience with public schools were of critical concern to both senators. She also displayed a surprising lack of knowledge about federal laws on special education. With Murkowski and Collins in the “no” column, the vote count currently stands at a tie – one that will undoubtedly be broken by Vice President Pence in what would be an unprecedented tie breaker for a cabinet position. It looks like the vote may take place on Monday.

Closer to home, both the House and Senate now have education proposals, as does Governor Inslee. You can find a comparison of the plans here. After a hearing on Monday, the Senate’s already voted theirs over to the House (albeit along party lines). The Senate’s plan that was made public just as we went to hit “send” last week includes changes to the way we budget money, based on students rather than staff, makes big changes to the levy system and tweaks the state’s accountability system.

The House proposal invests more resources in programs that provide supports and interventions for kids including the Learning Assistance Program (LAP), the Transitional Bilingual Instructional Program (TBIP), and Career and Technical Education (CTE). The House also picks up the cost for compensation – a requirement of the Supreme Court ruling – and invests money in professional development for our educational workforce. The funds would flow in a manner similar to how they flow now, without the same guidelines that Senate Republicans put forward in their bill.

Superintendent Reykdal did double duty, issuing a statement and making an appearance at the Senate hearing. You can find him at the 50-minute mark of the hearing. You can also find Superintendent Reykdal here, in Podcast form. And just because I know everybody loves a treasure hunt, you can find all the education bill news here, on our bill tracker.

Other Ed News:

Other news that made the news this week:

  • I’ve lost socks. Once I even lost my car in the airport parking garage. But an entire continent?
  • Here’s a question I’ve asked many time.
  • It’s not if, but what, the TOTUS will tweet about this Super Bowl ad.
  • Rejoice brain science nerds. Not one, but two pieces to nourish your soul. Er. Brain.

Well, kids, that’s it for this week. And heck, it should be more than enough to see you through. Next week we will see further action on the education plans introduced in both chambers, we’ll hear about the importance of fully funding the State Need Grant, and someone famous will undoubtedly show us their baby bump. Good times.

Have a great weekend! And as always, thanks for all you do for Washington’s kids.



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Making a Splash to Improve Literacy in Kent

By Joyce Yee, LEV Community Organizer

Kent School District Summer Splash - League of Education VotersThe Kent School District’s Summer Splash Reading program is a pilot summer program to help students improve their reading literacy levels and skills, funded by the Race to the Top Initiative. The district is partnering with King County Housing Authority and Kent Youth and Family Services to provide support to families at the Birch Creek housing community.

Summer Splash began in the summer of 2015 and is scheduled to end in summer of 2017. The district provided three teachers to work with students grades Pre-K through 6th, Kent Youth and Family Services provided three classroom assistants, along with three older students who are in high school or alumni of the district, to help out. Students are divided into three classrooms, with 25 students in each.

While their main focus is on kindergarten readiness and improvement in reading literacy, Summer Splash uses a whole child approach. They use the American Reading Company curriculum, and students read factual material on topics such as science. The pre-kindergarten students sit together in a kindergarten academy that helps them with readiness for kindergarten, four hours a day for eight weeks. Older students in grades 1–6 work on improving literacy skills through reading texts and doing research reports, and meet 2 hours a day for 7 weeks.

The student demographic at Birch Creek is mostly Somali, Latino, Iraqi, Russian, Ukrainian, as well as Black/African American. The Kent Youth and Family support staff, and summer school coordinator intentionally recruited students from various ethnic backgrounds by knocking on families’ doors, going to Pine Tree and Millennial Elementary schools to hand out applications, and making phone calls to such families in order to get them to enroll their children in this program. Students in the program have already made measurable gains in reading test scores. Of the 75 students who participated, 66 completed pre and post assessments. All students who participated maintained and improved their grade reading level, average reading growth level was 0.19 years, 4th – 6th grade students had a higher average reading growth level of 0.28 years.

The Kent School District is also working on sustainability of the program after the Race to the Top funding goes away. In the first year, they recruited teachers who weren’t experienced at working with students from diverse demographics. In 2016, they recruited two district teachers from schools with demographics that reflect Birch Creek families, as well as one Kent Youth and Family Services (KYFS) teacher. This year, they will recruit only one district teacher, and two KYFS staff teachers. Professional development has been job-embedded for all staff members working with these students so that the program will be more sustainable.

During the year, Summer Splash provides afterschool homework help including reading and math. Older students are recruited to be reading buddies with younger students. This is in response to 2015 data showing that students were still 2–3 years behind grade level, and older students in grades 4 through 6 are embarrassed to ask for help. Older siblings and cousins read to younger kids. This approach helps the older students to avoid being embarrassed to read materials at lower grade levels with younger students and learn at the same time.

Shouldn’t programs like Summer Splash be part of basic education?



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

Posted in: Closing the Gaps

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Helping Children and Families Succeed Through the Most Difficult Times of Their Lives

By Joyce Yee, LEV Community Organizer

Seneca Family of Agencies - League of Education VotersSeneca Family of Agencies began thirty years ago as a small residential treatment program for some of the most vulnerable foster youth in California. Now, Seneca works with over seventy school districts and charter public schools throughout California and Washington. Their model follows a team-oriented approach that helps build everyone’s capacity for an inclusive school environment to better serve students with trauma histories, mental health needs, disabilities or other barriers to success.

The philosophy of Seneca’s work comes from their experiences within and across public systems of care and in working with communities. They believe that the answers to even our communities’ most profound challenges can be found within individuals, and that parents are the primary experts on what works well for their children. And, they believe that designing schools that work for students who have historically struggled the most will result in schools that work for all students.

Lihi Rosenthal, Executive Director of Education at Seneca Family of Agencies, spoke about why some of these common sense strategies have not been widely implemented. “Because of how their funding streams are allocated, both Medicaid-funded mental health services for young people in need and special education services for children with disabilities follow a ‘fail first’ approach,” says Lihi. In other words, students have to struggle mightily after experiencing some sort of trauma before they can receive treatment and services to help them do better.

Once students’ difficulties rise to the level of crisis, then and only then are they cleared to receive expert help from qualified mental health specialists, special educators, and other transdisciplinary professionals. Yet, here again, treatment or services are reserved only for those who have already qualified for help, and are not made available to the school as a whole, even though there may be many other students who could benefit from them. According to Lihi, “The system tends to focus on the few students in crisis, rather than more holistically looking at delivering programs that might benefit all students.” As a result, families of students who struggle the most are often sent to multiple agencies located miles away from the school, decreasing the likelihood that individual interventions will carry over from closed-door therapy rooms into other domains of a young person’s life, from the classroom to the family dining room to the soccer field and the cafeteria.

In contrast, Seneca partners with schools to design interventions that are delivered not through isolated services, but which are integrated with a school culture of safety, belonging and academic curiosity. Wendy Durst, Director of Strategic Partnerships at Seneca Family of Agencies, says, “Seneca works with schools to design preventative and early intervention strategies that bring transdisciplinary experts out of their siloes and into the places where students spend the most time in schools – the hallways, lunch rooms, and their general education classrooms.”

This approach – Seneca’s Unconditional Education model – is currently being studied by SRI International, an external evaluator assigned to the program as part of a federal Investing in Innovation (i3) grant Seneca was awarded in 2013. After its first full year of investigation, the model has shown promising early results at the seven California schools included in the study, including statistically significant gains in literacy and math for students with disabilities and English Language Learners.

Shouldn’t this be part of basic education?

#Beyond Basic


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

Posted in: Closing the Gaps

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Education Advocate January 2017

ED Advocate, League of Education Voters Newsletter, January


Chris Korsmo
Chris Korsmo, CEO

The new year is upon us, and the 2017 Legislative Session is officially under way. We have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to change the future for every Washington student. To that end, LEV is proud to join the newly-launched Campaign for Student Success. Together, we can stand up for students and ensure every kid in Washington state receives a great education.

Also, LEV interviewed Governor Inslee on his 2017-2018 budget plan, we have released our 2017 Legislative Agenda, and our partners at Washington STEM are hosting a free Lunchtme LEVinar January 24 on Career Connected Leaning and STEM.

Read below for more about our work.

Finally, I would like to extend a big thank-you to our donors in the fourth quarter of 2016. You make our work possible. Thanks for all you do for kids. We couldn’t do it without you.

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Chris Korsmo

2017 Washington state Regional Teachers of the Year Kendra Yamamoto and Elizabeth Loftus - League of Education Voters

League of Education Voters 2017 Annual Breakfast

Please join us for our seventh annual LEV Breakfast on Thursday, March 30, a celebration of Washington’s teachers and an engaging conversation on how we can advocate to put great teachers in front of the kids who need them most. Featured will be 2017 Regional Teacher of the Year recipients Kendra Yamamoto and Elizabeth Loftus on how great teachers are the key to student success. Read more

Governor Jay Inslee - League of Education Voters

Podcast Interview with Governor Jay Inslee

On the day he released his 2017-2018 budget, Governor Jay Inslee sat down with League of Education Voters Communications Director Arik Korman to discuss his 2017 education priorities, how to build bridges in today’s political climate, and how to close the opportunity and achievement gaps.

Washington state capitol - League of Education Voters

LEV’s 2017 Legislative Agenda

In the upcoming legislative session, the League of Education Voters will focus on educator compensation, student supports, accountability, early learning, higher education, and local governance. Also, our 2017 Legislative Bill Tracker is now live! And if you would like to receive Chris Korsmo’s Weekly Roundup during the legislative session, you can sign up here. Read our legislative agenda here

Career Connected Learning - League of Education Voters

Career Connected Learning and STEM

In our free January 24 webinar, Washington STEM Chief Policy and Strategy Officer Caroline King and Senior Program Officer Gilda Wheeler will teach us how career connected learning can benefit students, how CTE and career connected learning are connected, and how to support CTE and career connected learning through policy and program work. Register here

Student Supports - League of Education Voters

Student Supports, an Integral Component of Basic Education

Part of defining basic education is determining what each and every student should have access to in their school. Currently, our system does not guarantee access to student supports that are critical to many students’ academic success—including support staff like counselors or nurses, and programming like additional tutoring. There are a number of approaches we can take to making sure that students receive the supports and resources they need. Read more

Heather Wallace, January 2017 League of Education Voters Activist of the Month

LEV’s Activist of the Month

At the League of Education Voters, 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 January: Heather Wallace.Learn about Heather’s work advocating for public education, especially when it comes to early learning. Read more

2017 League of Education Voters 7th Annual Parent & Community Training

Access, Equity & Excellence: LEV’s 7th Annual Parent and Community Training

LEV’s annual parent and community training happens February 11 at the Tukwila Community Center. Learn which programs are working on the state, school district, and community level to close the opportunity gap. Get the knowledge and the tools you need to speak up and start this important conversation in your own community, all among the company of likeminded education advocates. Breakfast, lunch and childcare provided. Register here

Get Involved


January 12, 2017 | South King County 2017 Legislative Preview, Kent Commons, Mill Creek Room, Kent
February 11, 2017 | Access, Equity, & Excellence: Annual Parent and Community Training, Tukwila Community Center, Tukwila

March 30, 2017 | LEV 2017 Annual Breakfast, Sheraton Hotel, Seattle


January 24, 2017 | Career Connected Learning and STEM, Online webinar

| Donate online

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