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Transforming School Discipline: Lessons from Baltimore

By Kelly Munn, LEV State Field Director

The Seattle team in tours a school in Baltimore.Representatives from League of Education Voters and community-based organizations recently traveled to Baltimore, Maryland, to learn more about the discipline reforms that have been implemented by Baltimore City Public Schools with great success. Upon their return, each member contributed to our blog series, “Transforming School Discipline: Lessons from Baltimore.” The post below introduces the series, which will run through mid-December. (more…)

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LEV Activist of the Month: Nicholas Bradford

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 series. The first person we are recognizing as our Activist of the Month is Nicholas Bradford.

Nicholas BradfordNicholas Bradford specializes in restorative justice and transforming school discipline. He first became involved with LEV through our discipline work, and he served as part of the panel for our May 2013 community event, “Stop school suspensions: Solutions for safe, secure classrooms without removing kids.”
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Transforming school discipline key to better education

This post was written by League of Education Voters CEO Chris Korsmo and originally published in The Seattle Times on September 25, 2013.

Chris Korsmo, CEO of the League of Education VotersIf we are serious about closing our state’s opportunity and achievement gaps, we need to find ways to keep kids in school and learning, writes guest columnist Chris Korsmo.

STUDENTS can’t learn if they’re not in school.

If we are serious about closing our state’s opportunity and achievement gaps, we need to find ways to keep kids in school and learning.

While Washington state made progress in the last legislative session, there is more to be done.

Nationally, school-discipline rates are at an all-time high, double what they were in the 1970s. Millions of students are suspended from school every year. And students in groups with persistent achievement gaps are suspended and expelled from school at higher rates than their peers.

The school house, the place we all hope can serve as the “great equalizer,” is closing its doors to an alarming number of the very students who need the most support.

In Washington state, we have historically had no maximum length for suspensions. Expulsions could last indefinitely. Students, many of whom were arguably the most at risk of failure, were being left out of school indefinitely with no educational services and no plans for how to transition back into school.

A 2012 Washington Appleseed and TeamChild report requested discipline data from all 295 districts in Washington. Only 183 districts could provide detailed information about the number of long-term suspensions (defined as 10 or more days in Washington), emergency expulsions and regular expulsions. Even fewer districts could provide race and ethnicity or free and reduced-price lunch-status information of the impacted students.

Data from the 183 districts that did provide information showed that only 7 percent of students reportedly received educational services while they were out of school.

The League of Education Voters, TeamChild and Washington Appleseed were part of a strong effort to address the discipline crisis in our state during the most recent legislative session.

Washington legislators took a first step by passing a bill requiring emergency expulsions to end or be converted to another form of discipline within 10 school days. The bill also mandated that suspensions and expulsions last no longer than one calendar year, though a school may petition to exceed that limit based on public health or safety.

The new rules require schools to make detailed discipline data to be publicly available on the state’s education website. School districts are also required to create a re-engagement plan for suspended and expelled students

These are meaningful and significant improvements that will positively impact the lives of many, many children. And there is much more work to be done.

As a state, we must continue to minimize the amount of time students are out of school and maximize the opportunities for learning. District leaders must consider shortening the length of suspensions and expulsions and limiting their use. Instead, use in-school suspension and detention.

Each school district must decide what program works for its students, but many successful examples focus on keeping students in school and providing training and support for teachers covering topics such as cultural competency, social and emotional development and classroom management.

A program that is gaining attention is Positive Behavioral Interventions & Supports, or PBIS. Highline Public Schools is implementing this program in every school in the district.

A number of school districts across the country have addressed discipline problems with practices that educate and teach, rather than punishments that remove the student from class.

Baltimore’s discipline policies emphasize prevention and intervention strategies and discourage the use of out-of-school suspensions, expulsions and arrests for most student misbehavior. In four years, suspensions dropped from 1 in 5 students being out-of-school suspended to 1 in 8. The dropout rate fell nearly 4 percent.

Let’s aim to outperform Baltimore in reducing dropouts.

Posted in: School Discipline

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Cutting out the Middle Man: Giving Students the Tools for Advocacy and Activism at School.

Here at the League of Education Voters, we know more than our fair share of advocates.  Principals, parents, community members, teachers, preachers, business people and more unite to improve educational outcomes for students across Washington state. However, with all these valuable resources, student participation can easily be forgotten in the education advocacy equation.  LEV strives to keep students at the center of our efforts.

One of our summer interns, Grace Armstrong, who is studying Special Education at Gonzaga University, decided to tackle this issue head on. This summer she developed a workshop entitled “Advocacy and Activism at School.” Her goal is to give students the power to fix issues they see at school, rather than relying on an adult to help, which oftentimes never happens. With this workshop, students will identify a needed area for change at their school, uncover the root causes and long-term effects of the issue, and examine their personal investment in repairing the issue. Most importantly, they will develop a strategic action plan on how to influence people in power and conquer these school-related issues through advocacy and activism. This workshop is focused on forming student and community coalitions, so students can advocate not only for their needs, but the needs of many.

Grace has already presented the workshop at several local community centers and has more scheduled.  She says, “the students teeming energy, curiosity and passion blow me away. They have so much to discuss surrounding issues from bullying, to unhealthy school lunches, to falling behind in class. You can tell they want change and they want it now.” Grace can’t wait to continue this workshop series at more community centers and summer camp programs around Seattle. Contact her at grace@educationvoters.org if you would like to schedule a workshop!

Grace blogpost

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The 2013 legislative session: It’s a wrap

In what has become unfortunately common in Washington, the 2013 legislative session went into overtime. An agreement on a two-year budget was reached with less than 24 hours to spare to avoid a shutdown of state government. While significant hurdles remain as we strive to ensure our public education system is amply, equitably and sustainably funded, measurable progress was made during the extended 2013 session.

The legislature and the Governor were faced with competing requirements and political trends. Our state’s constitution required increased investment in K-12 education. And while I-1053 was ultimately ruled unconstitutional, the voters of Washington state have consistently sent a strong message that any tax increases must have 2/3 majority support in the legislature. The legislators were charged with increasing investment in K12, without broad based revenue increases, and avoiding cuts to other areas of education or essential social services.

On that score you have to say the session was a mild success. As a state, we expanded investment in early learning, brought a modicum of stability to the Working Connections Child Care program, increased investment in K-12 with an intense focus on the opportunity gap, and stopped the crippling cuts to higher education. We did all of this without cannibalizing essential social services. While it took longer than was needed, the outcome reflected the values of the voters who sent the legislators to Olympia to represent them.

In addition to the budget items, significant bipartisan efforts on education policy were passed (See LEV 2013 legislative accomplishments). Legislation related to addressing customer service issues in child care, supports for persistently failing schools, literacy, STEM education, gathering and reporting of discipline data, and assessment reforms all passed with significant bipartisan support.

As we move forward, LEV will continue to work with parents, members of both parties, and members of the education community to address the continuing challenge of providing ample, equitable and stable funding and ensuring those dollars are invested effectively to ensure that every student in Washington state receives an excellent public education that provides the opportunity for success.

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Governor Inslee signs two early learning bills

Great news for Washington’s littlest learners; Governor Inslee has signed HB 1723 and SB 5595 into law! Here are some of the changes you can expect:

Under HB 1723

Under SB 5595

  • DEL/The Department of Social and Health Services will provide improved consumer service, meaning they will return all phone calls within 2 business days, develop a process to submit forms online, notify parents and child care providers 10 days before loss of WCCC benefits, and provide consumers with a document that is easy to understand regarding what services they are eligibile for, etc.
  • Creates a task force comprised of legislators, representatives from various early learning stakeholder groups, and child care providers. The task force will develop recommendations for creating a tiered-reimbursement model for WCCC and a mixed delivery system for ECEAP.
  • DEL/DSHS must work to design a more flexible subsidy system that accounts for small fluctuations in family circumstances, ensure that minor changes in parent’s work schedule(s) don’t interfere with their WCCC authorization, enable parents who participate in 110 hours of work or related activities to be eligible for full-time child care services, and simplify the requirement to count child support as income.

* This is void if not funded by 6/1/13.

Governor Inslee signs House Bill No. 1723 Relating to expanding and streamlining early learning services and programs.

Governor Inslee signs House Bill No. 1723
Relating to expanding and streamlining early learning services and programs.

Governor Inslee signs Senate Bill No. 5595 Relating to child care reform.

Governor Inslee signs Senate Bill No. 5595 Relating to child care reform.

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Governor signs bill to help turnaround schools

“Our kids can’t wait for schools to improve. They need high-quality schools now.”

This is a favorite mantra of LEV’s CEO Chris Korsmo, who is known for her impatient optimism.

Community leaders and legislators agreed that it was time for our state to do something about persistently low-achieving schools. The time for hoping the problem would get better was over.

Today Governor Inslee signed SB 5329, which gives the state a larger role in school accountability and turnaround efforts. The legislation calls on the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI) to design, a statewide system of support, assistance, and intervention for persistently low-achieving schools.

The legislation implements the second level of an accountability system created in 2010 to assist the ten most persistently lowest-achieving schools in Washington to become more accountable. School performance is based on the Achievement Index, a State Board of Education-developed accountability framework.

Thanks to SB 5329, persistently low achieving schools will receive additional support from OSPI to implement a three-year required action plan. OSPI will develop the action plan criteria and the corresponding system of supports for each level of challenged schools. If schools do not improve in three years, OSPI, working with local districts, will require additional actions to increase student achievement.

LEV worked with our partners Stand for Children and Partnership for Learning and a bi-partisan team of legislators in both chambers to develop the legislation.

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Sine Die 2013

On Sunday, April 28th around 6:00 p.m. the gavel fell and the 105 day regular session was brought to a close. Almost as swiftly as the 2013 regular session ended, Gov. Inslee called for a special session to begin on Monday, May 13th in order to focus on three main issues:
1. An operating budget that makes a substantial down payment on education, but not on the backs of seniors or the poor;
2. A transportation plan that preserves funding for existing infrastructure projects and funds new projects; and
3. Important education policy measures to ensure that new education funding will achieve results.

LEV walked into the 2013 session with three priorities:

Work with the legislature to ensure the McCleary decision to fund basic education is upheld and utilized well.

LEV has advocated before and during the 2013 session that it is time to amply fund education and look towards new avenues for revenue in this state. As the operating budget continues to be crafted and debated we will be steadfast in our support of a system that fully pays for education, but not by cannibalizing vulnerable populations.

Prioritize the investments and funding in education that have been made to Washington’s students and have been proven effective.

LEV, along with our coalition partners, brought to the table vital legislation addressing accountability and access from early learning through higher education. So far we have had significant progress in:

  •         Early learning through SB 5595 and HB 1723
  •         Assisting persistently low achieving schools to be more accountable through SB 5329
  •         Alternative assessments for teacher certification HB1178
  •         Support for programs that close the opportunity gap, such as academic acceleration through HB 1642

Minimize the negative impact of discipline policies on students.

As a brand new issue, brought forward from the community, discussions around the discipline policies in our schools have come leaps and bounds. From an issue that was barely spoken of last session to now a rallying point for many legislators eager to end racial disparities and close the opportunity gap, there is still much work to be done this year and in future years. The bills tied to this issue have been labeled NTIB (necessary to implement the budget) and will be negotiated out during the special session.

The mini-interim between now and May 13th will send legislators back to their home districts for a few weeks. As LEV continues to advocate for the policy bills and budgets still in the works, this is your opportunity to connect with your individual legislators to remind them the impacts their choices make on you, your children, and your community. Look for more updates on budget progress and key policy bills, as well as how you can stay involved as the 30-day special session kicks off.

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Top 5 Reasons We Can’t Wait to Meet Sen. Mike Johnston

Colorado State Senator Mike Johnston is a rising political star and an education inspiration, and he’s coming to speak at our 2013 LEV Breakfast. Here are five reasons why we can’t wait to hear from him:

  1. He’s lived what he’s talking about.Sen. Johnston was a high school English teacher in Greenville, Mississippi with the Teach for America program. After earning a master’s degree in education and a law degree, he returned to Colorado and started his career as a principal. There he lead two alternative high schools serving Colorado students held in state custody or living in group homes and detention centers.
  2. He’s committed to supporting great school leaders.Sen. Johnston is co-founder of New Leaders for New Schools, a national non-profit that recruits and trains urban principals.
  3. His work speaks for itself.His hard work in education and politics have earned him well-deserved accolades. In 2011, TIME Magazine ranked Mike among the “Top 40 Under 40 Rising Political Stars,” and Forbes Magazine listed him as one of the “7 Most Influential Educators” in 2010.
  4. He believes truth and hope go together.During his first year in office, Sen. Johnston championed the Great Teachers and Leaders Law, groundbreaking legislation that alters teacher evaluations by measuring student growth.
  5. He knows change is possible.In 2005, Sen. Johnston became the founding principal of MESA (Mapleton Expeditionary School of the Arts), a redesigned urban high school in the Mapleton Public Schools that made Colorado history by becoming the first public high school in which 100 percent of seniors were admitted to four-year colleges.

And if you need one more reason to come hear him speak at the 2013 LEV Breakfast, look forward to hearing inspirational lines like this:

We hope to see you there!

What: 2013 LEV Breakfast, featuring Keynote Speaker Senator Mike Johnston

When: May 16th, 7:30am – 8:45am

Where: Sheraton Seattle Hotel

RSVP today!

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Charter School Implementation Moves Forward in Washington

Public charter school implementation is moving forward in Washington thanks to voters’ approval of Initiative 1240, which will allow up to 40 charter schools to open in Washington over the next five years.

Still not sure about what charter schools are?

Below is a list of the top five things you should know about charter schools:

1. Charter schools are public schools.
Public charter schools are free and open to all students and receive state funding based on student enrollment just like traditional public schools.

2. Public charter schools must meet the same academic standards as traditional public schools and will be held to high accountability standards.
Charter schools will be subject to strict oversight and public accountability, including annual performance reviews to evaluate their success in improving student outcomes. Schools not meeting the accountability standards will be closed. At the end of the five-year implementation period, an evaluation will be conducted to determine whether additional public charter schools should be allowed.

3. Charter school teachers are subject to the same certification requirements as teachers in other public schools.
Great teachers are essential to student success, and teachers in public charter schools must meet the same teaching certification requirements as teachers in all other public schools.

4. Charter schools have more flexibility than traditional public schools.
Public charter schools can set their own schedules (such as offer a longer school day or school year), have more control over their curriculum, budget and staffing decisions, and can offer more customized learning experiences for students.

Charter schools are free to innovate in ways that improve student achievement. For example, there are charter schools focused on STEM education, performing arts, project-based learning, college preparation, career readiness, language immersion, civic engagement, classical education, global awareness or meeting the needs of autistic students – just to name a few.

Many successful and high-performing public charter schools are dedicated to serving low-income students and student of color and are succeeding at closing achievement and opportunity gaps.

5. Washington is the forty-second state to have public charter schools.
Initiative 1240, which became law December 6, 2012, allows up to 40 public charter schools in Washington state over a five-year period. The law was carefully designed to incorporate what other states have learned in 20 years of experience with public charter schools. In Washington, we modeled our law on the best of what works in other states, that’s why our law is already ranked 3rd best in the nation by the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools.

Next steps

This week, the nine commissioners to serve on Washington’s Charter School Commission will be announced. The Commission will be charged with reviewing applications, authorizing, and holding accountable quality public charter schools.

The State Board of Education is in the process of approving rules pertaining to charter schools.

We expect the first charter school in Washington to open in the fall of 2014.

 

 

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