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Sixty-four percent.

By Emma Margraf

Sixty-four percent of foster kids in Washington state do not graduate from high school.It was the day that Jane was brought into the principal’s office to be scared by a police officer for threatening other kids that sent me over the edge. She was in the eighth grade, being bullied, and in a downward spiral of discipline without direction or objective. I walked into the principal’s office and told him if he ever did anything like that again without calling me first I was going to sue everyone in the district. “There is a long line of people who’ve let this kid down,” I said, “and you are one of them.”

As I walked out of the school, I realized I had to be honest with myself—the status quo was never going to work. Cut to five years later and Jane and I have pretty much worked it out, with the help of friends. Quite a bit has happened that you can read about here and here. Jane’s nearing the end of her high school career and the girl who no one wanted to let out of the resource room has tested into college-level English, gotten her driver’s license, and learned to make friends and plan for her future.

According to OSPI, sixty-four percent of foster kids in Washington state do not graduate from high school.

Sixty-four percent.

They graduate at a lower rate than any other category of students—homeless kids, kids who speak limited English, children of immigrants—they all graduate at a higher rate. It’s easy to see how Jane could have been one of those statistics—some kids and parents just don’t have the fight in them to succeed. (more…)

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

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Activist of the Month: Ashley Guerra

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 July: Ashley Guerra. Read more about her experience leveraging technology to improve parental involvement in education.

The Guerra family at the June 6 State Board of Education forum. From left: From left to right, Ashley, her younger brother Julito, her mom Yelenys, and her dad Julio.

The Guerra family at the June 6 State Board of Education forum. From left: From left to right, Ashley, her younger brother Julito, her mom Yelenys, and her dad Julio.

Ashley Guerra just finished her first year of high school, so it might surprise you to hear that we chose her as our Activist of the Month for July. But it won’t surprise you for very long.

Ashley recently testified at the State Board of Education’s forum on the updated high school diploma for Washington. Her focus was parent engagement.

Her goal to increase parent engagement began as a school project at Kent-Meridian High School, which has the lowest graduation rate in Kent. Ashley and her peers decided to try to find a way to improve Kent-Meridian’s graduation rate.

After researching strategies that have been shown to improve the graduation rate, Ashley and her project group members decided to focus on parent engagement. (more…)

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

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Making the sky the limit

Making the sky the limit. (View from Spokane.)Rogers High School in northeast Spokane had a graduation rate of 50 percent in 2010. This year, the graduate rate was 85 percent, an increase of 35 percent in four years.

What changed between 2010 and 2014? Not the student body. Seventy-five percent of students at the high school are eligible for free and reduced lunch (FRL). What DID change is how students prepare for high school and life after high school.

Rogers High School is in its sixth year of a Navigation 101 grant from College Spark Washington, and they have also implemented the AVID program in their school. Both Navigation 101 and AVID are programs designed to prepare students for college or career.

One aspect of both of those programs is the High School and Beyond Plan, used to help students chart a path through high school to achieve their post-high school career goals. The High School and Beyond Plan is also one part of the newly updated high school diploma for Washington, which was passed during the 2014 legislative session. The League of Education Voters is working with communities across the state to ensure that the implementation of the new diploma is as effective as possible.

So how did Rogers High School implement the High School and Beyond Plan successfully? (more…)

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

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A definition of basic education worth fighting for

Chris Korsmo, CEO, League of Education VotersChris Korsmo, CEO of the League of Education Voters, submitted an op-ed to The Seattle Times‘ Education Lab yesterday. It was published in The Seattle Times print edition on June 20.

In her column, Chris argues that the definition of “basic education” in Washington is too narrow—it does not include early learning or higher education. Read below for an excerpt, or read the entire column online.

At the League of Education Voters, we support an ample, equitable, stable education funding plan. While we supported the re-definition of “basic education” developed in 2009 (it includes smaller class size, full-day kindergarten, transportation, materials and supplies) upon which McCleary is based, we advocated that the definition should also include early learning and higher education.

During the past two years, we have grown increasingly uncomfortable with the current definition of basic education. It is neither ample nor equitable. And thanks to our over-reliance on local levies, it certainly isn.t stable.

We need a definition of basic education that puts students and their learning at the center.

Read the entire op-ed on The Seattle Times website.

Posted in: Blog, Early Learning, Featured, Funding, Higher Education, LEV News

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Making sure the new discipline law works

Katie MosehauerKatie Mosehauer, Executive Director of Washington Appleseed, recently spoke with Steve Scher at KUOW about the new Washington state school discipline law, and how the changes affect schools, students, and parents.

Every year, thousands of Washington students are excluded from school. Students of color, low-income students, and special education students are disciplined at higher rates than other students, which contribute to Washington’s opportunity and achievement gaps. Higher rates of suspensions and expulsions lead to higher dropout rates, increases in grade repetition, and a rise in incarceration rates.

(more…)

Posted in: Advocacy and Activism, Blog, School Discipline

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Activist(s) of the Month: Sarah Butcher, Jennifer Karls, Beth Sigall

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 Activists of the Month for April: Sarah Butcher, Jennifer Karls, and Beth Sigall. Read more about their experiences as strong advocates for special education.

Sarah Butcher, Jennifer Karls, and Beth Sigall are strong advocates for public education in Washington state. Sarah and Jennifer formed the Bellevue Special Needs PTA in 2012, where Jennifer serves as President and Sarah as co-Vice President. Beth serves as the Vice President of Advocacy for the Lake Washington PTSA Council. (more…)

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

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Transforming School Discipline: The Next Step

Transforming School Discipline: The Next Step [image of children running]During the 2013 legislative session, many of you helped us pass a law (SB 5946) that makes school discipline data public and limits the number of days that students can be removed from class.

That was the first step in transforming school discipline policies. Now it’s time to take another.

The Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) is inviting public comment on its implementation of the new law.

There are a few ways you can get involved. (more…)

Posted in: Advocacy and Activism, Blog, School Discipline

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The 2014 Legislative Session

The 2014 legislative session may have been short, but there were significant policy accomplishments in improving public education in Washington state. These accomplishments expand access to financial aid for higher education for all Washington students, pave the way for all students to graduate from high school ready for college or career, and make steps toward reducing the opportunity and achievement gaps. (more…)

Posted in: Blog, Career and College Ready Diploma, Closing the Gaps, Higher Education, Legislative session, LEV News

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A multifaceted approach yields a strong step forward in closing the opportunity and achievement gaps

By Beth Richer, League of Education Voters Government Relations

Governor Jay Inslee signs the Dream Act (Real Hope Act). Photo by the Seattle PI. Governor Jay Inslee signs the Dream Act (Real Hope Act). Photo by the Seattle PI.

Governor Jay Inslee signs the Dream Act (Real Hope Act). Photo by the Seattle PI.

Within any given legislative session there are victories, defeats, and measures left in a state of limbo. The 2014 session was no different. But amidst those victories, defeats, and states of limbo, there was an underlying theme for much of the education legislation related to the opportunity gap. Legislators, advocacy organizations, teachers, parents, students, and business leaders alike all said loud and clear: “We must take action to close the gaps and address our most underserved students.” (more…)

Posted in: Blog, Closing the Gaps, Legislative session, LEV News

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What a college and career ready high school diploma means

The field of Human Centered Design & Engineering is growing, and more than 80% of the program’s graduates are employed within 6 months of graduation. But Stephanie White, an undergraduate advisor in the Department of Human Centered Design & Engineering at the University of Washington, says that even though the undergraduate program has been flooded with applications, a lot of the students who want to study engineering in her department can’t—they simply don’t have the prerequisites to qualify. “Many students find out their junior year of high school that they don’t have the prerequisites to study STEM in college—by then it’s too late to take the courses they need.”

Sadly, Stephanie’s experience isn’t unusual. Only 4 in 10 graduating seniors meet the basic admissions requirements to get into a public university in Washington. And nearly 60% of students who attend community or technical college must take remediation classes to get to those basic 4-year college admissions requirements. In other words, many students must pay tuition to learn what they should have been taught in public high school. Help us to change this for Washington students by signing a petition in support of a college and career ready diploma.

(more…)

Posted in: Blog, Career and College Ready Diploma, Legislative session, LEV News, STEM

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