African American Achievement Gap Advisory Committee meeting recap

Posted by Heather

The African American Achievement Gap Advisory Committee (created by HB 2722) met at UW-Tacoma yesterday. The main attraction of the meeting was Paul Ruiz of The Education Trust. Mr. Ruiz is one of EdTrust’s experts on the achievement gap, and brought along the latest version of “Education Watch: Washington.” You can read the 2006 version here.

Mr. Ruiz made a number of interesting and thought-provoking points during his presentation to the committee. Here are some of the highlights:

  • Not all kids learn the same way, but all should learn to “respectable levels.”
  • Kids should leave high school with ability to pursue options (college, trades, etc).
  • When looking at NAEP and WASL scores, Washington is telling two different stories about proficiency (Of 4th graders, 77 percent passed the 2007 Reading WASL, compared to 37 percent scoring proficient or higher on NAEP).
  • The faculty of low-income/high-minority schools should mirror the faculty at affluent schools (meaning our teacher workforce should be more equally distributed).
  • We shouldn’t force teachers to teach where they don’t want to go, but the Legislature can set money aside to be used by high-poverty schools as incentives to attract teachers.
  • In order to improve student achievement, the Committee (and State) should set goals and then allow districts and schools to figure out to meet those goals.

After a brief Q-and-A session with Mr. Ruiz, the Committee broke for a working lunch to discuss the efforts of its three workgroups.

Next, we heard from Janell Newman (of OSPI) and Dan Barkley about district and school improvement and accountability. Dr. Newman and Mr. Barkley gave a presentation on Washington schools in improvement steps (as defined under No Child Left Behind) and how the State works with some of those schools. In the data recently released by OSPI, we learned 628 schools (of 2,115) are in an improvement step. This is up from 280 schools last year and 180 schools in 2005. And while OSPI only has the resources to help about 100 schools, they were able to make progress with those schools.

The big challenge here is the State cannot intervene in schools in improvement steps unless it is asked. If all goes well with the State Board of Education, Washington will have a new accountability system that gives the State the ability to intervene when schools are struggling. To learn more about the effort of the SBE, click here.

The Committee ended by reviewing its interim report, due next week. These are typically status reports, and the Committee seems on track to meet its final draft deadline in December.

Becoming Señora Wallace

In case we haven’t met yet, my name is Katie, and I’m an aspiring teacher. I joined the League of Education Voters at the beginning of July as a stepping stone to my next challenge. Teacher quality and preparation is something that comes up in conversation daily in the LEV office. Fortunately, I am on the brink of knowing firsthand what teacher prep looks like in Washington State. Let me tell you about it…

They say nothing makes sense in your twenties. You’re young. You don’t know what you want.

But I do know what I want, and I can’t stop thinking about it. I want to teach Spanish in Seattle Public Schools, preferably at a high school in south Seattle beginning in fall 2010.

I thought I “needed” to do “other things” first. For six years I was convinced that I would be a sportswriter. A few weeks into my first quarter at the School of Journalism and Communication at the University of Oregon, I woke up to the reality that writing about baseball everyday was not going to be as fulfilling as it was fun to dream about.

The funny thing is that I have always wanted to teach, yet I always had an excuse as to why I should wait, why I should pursue other careers.

Then again, maybe there were reasons that I was discouraged from teaching. It is pretty daunting to waltz into a broken system. Our failure to adequately fund our schools is aggravating. It is disheartening that we don’t invest more in our youth and our teachers. When you look at teacher salaries and school funding, it appears that we don’t put a high value on education.

Why would I spend roughly $80,000 on Bachelors degrees (journalism and Spanish) and eagerly apply to graduate school for my Masters in Teaching (which means another $30,000 on top of outstanding student loans!) to go into a career where I work 10-12 hours a day, take my work home with me and start out earning less than $40,000 per year?

Because there’s nothing else I would rather do. I have never felt so compelled to commit to anything in my whole life. Despite the pessimism and harsh realities of the education system, I can’t wait to have my own classroom.

As a corps member with City Year Seattle/King County last year, I had the opportunity to tutor in a Seattle high school two days a week. Those two days a week clearly reminded me of a) why I’m up for the challenge and b) why I can’t wait any longer.

Two years from now I will be standing in front of my own classroom. However, until then, I have my work cut out for me.

First step – grad school applications. Eek… October 1 is closer than I thought… I’ve been sensing the urgency of jumping into education, but this quickly approaching application deadline adds a different kind of pressure! Thankfully, I have already passed my entrance exams – the WEST-B and the Praxis II in Spanish. We’ll dive into a discussion of these educator skills tests next week…

I invite you to join me in this adventure. I’ll update you every Friday, and if something comes up during the week that I can’t wait to post, I’ll fill you in. Oh, and by the way, starting Tuesday of next week, I’ll be volunteering in high school Spanish classes once again… stay tuned!

Back to School and Back to Quality

Posted by Chris

This is a special week. One million children will fill their backpacks with new books, nervous energy and optimism and board yellow buses to return to school. Some are all but guaranteed to end the school year far ahead of where they are now. Too many will be less fortunate, experiencing less opportunity for growth, or worse yet, stagnation.

This school year we citizens have an opportunity to partner with educators, principals, and policymakers to ensure that all of our kids are headed back to school and back to quality.

Our vision: Every student is able to read by third grade. Every child deserves to arrive on their first day of kindergarten prepared to succeed. Unfortunately, over the past five years pass rates on the 4th grade Reading WASL have declined. One of the most effective ways to get us back on track is to invest in high-quality early learning programs, like Washington Head Start, and professional development for child care providers. As the Basic Education Finance Task Force redefines basic education, early learning must be included as one of the most promising avenues to impact student achievement from the very beginning.

Our vision: An excellent teacher in every classroom. Every child deserves a quality education from kindergarten and beyond, and excellent teachers are profoundly important to this journey. But three in five students in Washington attend an underperforming school where they may not learn what they need. That’s unacceptable. Fortunately solutions are in the works. The Basic Education Finance Task Force will propose measures to professionalize the teaching profession, which is likely to include an evaluation system to reward and support great teaching. Additionally, the State Board of Education will propose a series of steps that aim to turn around schools that underperform year after year.

Our vision: Every high school graduate is ready for college and work. Every child deserves to choose his or her path after high school. Unfortunately, not all high school students are given this choice in Washington. Only 41 percent of high school graduates meet college entrance requirements — and over half of entering community college students take remedial classes they should have mastered in high school. To help ensure a high school diploma means college and work ready, the State Board of Education adopted CORE 24 as the new graduation requirement framework. CORE 24 aligns high school course work with college entrance requirements and workforce expectations. Before the Board can implement these new requirements, we need to persuade the Legislature to fund more than just a five-period day.

The time for bold solutions is now.

The reform efforts mentioned above will be debated and decided during the upcoming 2008-09 school year. In this year of education, it is appropriate to assess not only student achievement, but citizen involvement. What will our citizen report card show?

Join us to change the world by changing our schools. We’re parents and community members who saw a need for a more independent voice and real results for all children. We’re dedicated to the idea that every one of our million school children deserves an excellent education and we need you.

Visit to learn more about what you can do to make a difference for kids.