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Progress in Olympia on gap-closing legislation

The House Education committee voted a number of bills out of committee this morning, including one of LEV’s priorities, 3SHB 1680, which focuses on closing the opportunity and achievement gaps utilizing a number of different strategies.

Representative Sharon Tomiko Santos is the primary sponsor of the bill, which was first introduced during the 2013 legislative session. The bill is based on recommendations from the Education Opportunity Gap Oversight and Accountability Committee, which Representative Santos co-chairs, including: addressing disproportionality in school discipline, educator cultural competence, instructing English language learners (ELLs), ELL accountability, disaggregated student data, and the recruitment and retention of educators.

“The work needed to address the opportunity gap is a multifaceted issue, and it needs a multifaceted approach in order to purely address it. 1680 does that,” testified Beth Richer, a member of the League of Education Voters Government Relations team, during a House Education Committee session on Monday.

Washington students need champions, like Representative Santos and her colleagues in the House Education Committee, who are committed to closing the opportunity and achievement gaps. Stay up-to-date on the progress of the bill through the Washington legislature website and Chris Korsmo’s Weekly Roundup.

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

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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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High-quality instructional time

A number of bills are being heard this week in the House and Senate related to instructional time—the amount of time students are in school engaged in learning activities. In Washington, instructional time includes any time from the first bell of the day to when students are released at the end of the day, minus the lunch period. Included in this definition are passing times, recess, and parent-teacher conferences.

At the League of Education Voters, we believe high-quality instructional time:

  • Actively engages students in learning
  • Provides students with the knowledge needed to meet academic goals
  • Helps develop social emotional or other non-academic skills that contribute to academic success
  • Enables students to demonstrate their knowledge by completing tasks, assignments, or tests
  • Is inclusive of teacher/parent-guardian conferences that discuss a student’s educational needs
  • Minimizes the amount of days teachers aren’t in the classroom due to other professional responsibilities

The League of Education Voters anticipates that with the full funding of McCleary v. Washington, there will be more, not less, K–12 instructional time for our students. Professional development time for teachers is critically important, but it must not come at the expense of student instructional time. Teachers must be paid for a full work day, like any professional, and this time must include state-funded, principal-directed professional development. (more…)

Posted in: Blog, Legislative session

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Erin Jones to Keynote Activist Training

Erin JonesThe League of Education Voters is pleased to announce that Erin Jones will be the keynote speaker at our January 25 activist training, Access, Equity, & Excellence.

Erin Jones is the Director of Equity and Achievement for Federal Way Public Schools. She has worked in education for the past 18 years as a volunteer, a private and public school teacher, a late night program director, and an instructional coach. (more…)

Posted in: Blog, LEV News

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Money Matters in the Issaquah School District

The League of Education Voters invited leaders from all around Washington state to share their school district’s story on how money matters, and how they are using it to reduce the opportunity and achievement gaps. This post is the last school district perspective in our five-part blog series, “Money Matters. But so does how it’s spent.”

Alison MeryweatherBy Alison Meryweather, LEV Key Activist

Once the 2014 budget was approved, the Issaquah district moved quickly to strategically invest the additional funding. To be clear; our district has yet to be restored to pre-2008-2009 state funding levels, but with the “additional” $3 million allocation from the state, we could begin that process.

Below are some of the priorities where funding was spent:

Instructional Performance and Accountability: $1,000,000 for full implementation, district-wide, of the Teacher Principal Evaluation Pilot (TPEP) Program. These additional funds are required to ensure the program is implemented with equity and transparency. These new evaluations are much more time-consuming and therefore the district opted to increase Dean of Students staffing at both the elementary and middle schools and add another Assistant Principal at two of our comprehensive high schools who have enrollments of 2,000 students each. This staff increase will also serve to assist students who need additional support to address their challenges.

Instructional Time: $200,000 to fund a pilot 7th period at two high schools to expand core graduation and elective options for students. Due to state funding constraints, our district only provides a 6-period day. The district will pilot an on-demand academic option, as well as provide transportation.

Student Health: While $975,000 overall was allocated, the district is contracting for Mental Health Counseling at all three of our comprehensive high schools, at a cost of $275,000. To me, this is a very smart investment. Data from our annual Healthy Youth Survey indicates numerous areas of significant concern. Our teachers are on the front line with our students and both need the guidance and support to navigate the complexities of social/emotional health.

Just imagine the opportunities for our students should the state fully adhere to the court McCleary decision to restore the previous funding levels and make additional essential investments in education!

Alison Meryweather is a passionate advocate for public education and has been volunteering for over a decade so that our students can benefit from the best education possible.

Posted in: Blog, Money Matters

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Money Matters in the Kent School District

The League of Education Voters invited leaders from all around Washington state to share their school district’s story on how money matters, and how they are using it to reduce the opportunity and achievement gaps. This post is the third school district perspective in our five-part blog series, “Money Matters. But so does how it’s spent.”

Agda BurchardBy Agda Burchard, Legislative Representative, Kent School District Board

Thanks to the state legislature, nearly $500 per student in additional funding was available at the start of the 2013–2014 school year.

In the Kent School District, a portion of the additional resources support student learning by funding:

  • Full-Day Kindergarten. Research shows that students who attend full-day kindergarten are more likely to be independent learners, more productive, and less likely to be withdrawn or aggressive. Seven additional elementary schools in Kent received state funds for full-day kindergarten. In a full day, teachers have more time to concentrate on teaching the curriculum and students are able to focus longer on a subject. Students also have time to engage in a wider range of activities including the arts and physical education.
  • Increasing Student Success. KSD added or expanded these programs:
    • Dual-language programs at Scenic Hill and Carriage Crest elementary schools. Students will focus on learning two languages and develop high linguistic and academic proficiency.
    • Preschool classes at Meridian and Park Orchard elementary schools. To prepare students for success in school.
    • Parent Academy for Student Achievement. The Parent Academy teaches parents how to engage in their children’s education and is taught in nine different languages.
    • Career Medical Pathways program at Kentlake in partnership with Renton Technical College. Students can take low-cost college courses and work with businesses such as MultiCare Health System to receive practical instruction in the medical field. This type of experience gives students new opportunities and advantages in the modern job market.

The additional state funding was a good down-payment toward fully funding public education as required by the state supreme court’s McCleary decision. When you see your state legislators, please thank them on behalf of the students in your community. And ask them to keep working to fully fund basic education so that all our students can increase their academic achievement and graduate ready for success in college, career, and community life.

Agda Burchard and her husband Tom have lived in Kent for 20 years. Agda became active in the Kent School District when their daughter Sam entered kindergarten in 2002. In addition to serving on the Kent School District Board, Agda is a Girl Scout leader and PTA leader.

Posted in: Blog, Money Matters

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Money Matters in Spokane Public Schools

The League of Education Voters invited leaders from all around Washington state to share their school district’s story on how money matters, and how they are using it to reduce the opportunity and achievement gaps. This post is the second school district perspective in our five-part blog series, “Money Matters. But so does how it’s spent.”

Bob DouthittBy Bob Douthitt, President, Spokane Public Schools

Spokane Public Schools received approximately $18 million in net new state and federal revenue for the 2013–2014 school year to support basic and special education. This represents 5–6 percent of our operating budget, which is slightly over $300 million.

Of the $18 million, $10 million is being used to fund Basic Education obligations that had previously been backfilled by levy money. The remaining $8 million, which represents new revenue, is being used to reduce K–1 class sizes, particularly in high-poverty schools, increase reading intervention teachers to provide support in all elementary schools, and increase certificated staff in middle schools to support both at-risk and high-achieving students. Additional investments for professional development to implement the Teacher-Principal Evaluation Project (TPEP) and new curriculum for Common Core were added to the budget. Our Mentor Teacher Program was restored. Finally, investments in college and career completion initiatives are available in this year’s budget to help support the School District’s T-2-4 goal.

The “T-2-4” goal, which is part of our new five-year strategic plan introduced this fall, says that as much as 67 percent of the jobs in Washington state are expected to require some form of post-secondary training by 2018. The “finish line” for our students should not be merely obtaining a high school diploma, but rather, completing something at the post-secondary level. It could either be technical or military (the T), a 2-year degree (the 2), or a 4-year degree (the 4).

Washington’s students certainly need the additional $3+ billion delineated in HB 2261 And ESHB 2776, and required under the McCleary decision, if they are going to substantially improve their academic achievement and realistically expect to obtain the outcomes we want as a state, and need as a society.

Bob Douthitt was elected to the School Board for Spokane Public Schools in 2007, and has served as president since 2011. A former tax attorney and retail business owner, he has been active in civic affairs throughout his career.

Posted in: Blog, Money Matters

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Money Matters in the Anacortes School District

The League of Education Voters invited leaders from all around Washington state to share their school district’s story on how money matters, and how they are using it to reduce the opportunity and achievement gaps. This post is the first school district perspective in our five-part blog series, “Money Matters. But so does how it’s spent.”

Jeannette PapadakisBy Jeannette Papadakis, President, Anacortes School Board

The increased funding from the 2014 legislative session, as the first installment for fully funding K–12 education, is directly benefiting Anacortes students. The additional resources received are being used to positively impact the Anacortes School District’s instructional goals.

Thanks to the work of the legislature, we have been able to continue to fund full-day kindergarten for every student in our district. We believe that starting “school ready” is a requirement for future academic success. Through initiatives such as our aggressive early learning efforts and the ability to continue full-day kindergarten, our student assessment data shows substantial and consistent gains in this area.

Another area we have addressed with additional funding is first and second grade literacy. By the completion of these grades, 30 percent of our students are not on target to meet the reading standards. It is critical to their future academic success that students are able to read by third grade. After analyzing data, our current practices and curriculum, and studying the latest research, we hired two primary literacy instructional coaches to address this problem. Current research shows that students have the best gains with a certified, high-quality teacher (versus our former pull-out model). These instructional coaches model, guide, collaborate, and provide feedback, with the goal of directly impacting student reading achievement.

We appreciate our legislature taking the necessary initial steps to fully fund public education. Through the use of these additional resources the Anacortes School District is addressing specific student needs and outcomes.

Jeannette Papadakis is the President of the Anacortes School Board. She has served on the board since 2007.

Posted in: Blog, Money Matters

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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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Call for Volunteers for College Application Completion Events

Road Map to College is kicking off the next round of its campaign: College Application Completion Events. These events run through early December at locations across the region, provide one-on-one support to students researching colleges, filling out applications and drafting personal statements.

Road Map to College is looking for volunteers for these events. Volunteers will have an opportunity to work directly with students and help them reach their postsecondary dreams. Currently, the following events need the most volunteer support:

Seattle
12.03 Rainier Beach High School
11.07 Roosevelt High School
11.12 Ingraham High School
11.06 Cleveland High School

South King County
11.06 Lindbergh High School
11.19 Hazen High School
11.07 Auburn Riverside High School
11.12 Kentridge High School
12.04 Kentwood High School

To volunteer, please sign up on the Road Map to College website.

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