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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.

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Activist of the Month: Lynda Collie-Johnson

By Andaiye Qaasim, Community Organizer at the League of Education Voters

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 January: Lynda Collie-Johnson. Read more about Lynda’s experience as an educator and at LEV’s Activist Training last year.
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Posted in: Activist of the Month, Blog

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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…)

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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The lasting impacts of good primary school teachers

Your child’s primary school teacher can have a much bigger impact on them than you might realize—the quality of their teaching can impact everything from your child’s college attendance rate to their savings rate, reported the Wall Street Journal recently.

Researchers from the National Bureau of Economic Research found that students with high “value-added” teachers—i.e., teachers who had large impacts on their students’ test scores—in grades 4–8 were “more likely to attend college, earn higher salaries, live in higher socioeconomic status neighborhoods and have higher savings rates.” The same students were also less likely to become parents as teenagers. In addition, when low “value-added” teachers were replaced by average teachers, student lifetime earnings increased by about $250,000 per classroom.

The entire article is published on the Wall Street Journal website.

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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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Washington students increase SAT participation, scores

Standardized test scantron formMore Washington students are taking the SAT than ever before, and they are also scoring well. The Washington state average score is 52 points higher than the national average of 1474, and they rank 3rd in the nation in math, reported the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) last Thursday.

In 2012, the number of students participating in the SAT rose by 4.6 percent, compared with an 0.8 percent national increase. Overall participation across the state is at 55 percent, making Washington 3rd in the nation for participation, behind Texas (56 percent) and Utah (100 percent).

In addition, participation from students of color increased by a larger margin than the rest of the country. Participation by Hispanic students increased by almost 15 percent, more than double the national increase. Participation by black students increased by nearly 9 percent, compared to an almost 2 percent national decrease. American Indian student participation increased by nearly 7 percent, compared to an increase of 4.6 percent nationally. Participation by Asian students increased by 2.7 percent, compared with a 1.7 percent national increase.

The SAT exam has been approved by Washington’s legislature as an alternative to Washington’s state exams in math, reading, and writing. Students who either do not pass the Washington state exams or who transfer into Washington schools from another state can apply to use their SAT scores instead of their state exam results.

The press release about the increase in SAT participation is available on OSPI’s website.

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